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Sunday, January 15, 2012

#30 Phil Jourdan

Twenty Questions with Mourning Goats

For the 30th interview on Mourning Goats, we have the triple threat, Phil Jourdan. He's in the band Paris and the Hiltons, he writes some fantastic fiction, and he wants to make YOUR writing better at a site he co-founded, called LitReactor.com. Read on to see what it's like to live through some hard times only to come out on top.

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

Sad goats. Goats sad because childless.

2. Your first book, Praise of Motherhood, is coming out May 25th, what was it like getting it published? How has Zero Books been?

It was a smooth process. Zero Books hasn't done any autobiography titles before me, so I was happy that they took a chance with my book. I really like the Zero Books collection, and it's cool to be a part of that group.

3. Recently, you agreed to run your own publishing imprint called Perfect Edge Books. How did this come about? What are you looking for?

The company that runs Zero Books, John Hunt Publishing, has many different imprints, and I'm going to be heading a new one for works of fiction that don't typically sit well with the "mainstream." The project came out of talks with the company, and I was interested in doing it because of my good experience in working with them. I like how they work. So if I'm going to be involved in a publishing project, of course I'm going to pick them. You hear a lot of horror stories about misunderstandings between authors and publishers; one thing I liked about John Hunt Publishing and Zero Books is that there's no bullshit. Things are transparent. If you have a question, the answer will be public. I like that.

Right now I'm approaching different authors with active platforms and small, dedicated followings. We're not accepting submissions out of the blue yet, but we will eventually. The fiction we're aiming to publish is dark, intelligent, all those adjectives, but I'm going to refuse to publish works that go for shock for shock's sake. I hate those books. There are too many of them being written. They're boring.

4. So, in 2012, your first book comes out, you're running your own publishing imprint, AND you're working on your PhD, how do you time-manage all of that?

I get bored easily. I like working on stuff like this. It means I'm not wasting my time. Plus, I'm aware that I'm in a privileged position, with all these cool things going on, and I want to make the most of it. And I drink coffee.

5. In one interview, you said you threw away 50,000 words that you needed to get out of the way when writing Praise of Motherhood, can you elaborate on this?

They were too personal, and they lacked focus — I'm sure someone might have found them interesting as a text written immediately after the author's mother's death, but that draft had no real merit otherwise. I wanted to make it less about me, and less about my mother, and more about our relationship. So I chopped it up, fucked around with it, and it didn't satisfy me, so I got rid of everything. It's still somewhere, I think, but I don't know what the file is called. Those pages were breathless and agonized, and I wanted something more controlled and contemplative. So I rewrote it bit by bit, and eventually almost nothing remained of the original manuscript.

6. This first book is a memoir, but published as a novel, why not publish it as a memoir?

It's a memoir, and it doesn't call itself a novel — but I call it a novel, because no matter how true to life it is, it still feels like a forged document to me. It paints a picture very similar to the real world I experienced, but putting it into words, omitting details, etc, all of that makes a life seem less real than it is. So I often refer to it as a novel, even though if it were marketed as a novel it would probably fail completely.

7. The book is very matter-of-factly written, is that what you were trying to go for?

It's matter-of-factly written up until the last few chapters. After that, it stops being factual, it stops even knowing what the facts are, and I make stuff up — like my mother coming back to life, all that stuff. But yes, it's important to me to be straightforward. The book deals with one fundamental fact: my mother is dead. It doesn't get simpler than that. So I had to get as close to the sun without blinding myself as possible — that way, nobody could accuse me of being too sentimental, though there is that too.

8. You also have a band, Paris and the Hiltons, do you think the creative juices that make music and literature are in any way connected?

Yeah. I think so. But they produce very different reactions in me. I make music because it's fun and exciting. I write because I have long stretches of feeling like shit without knowing why, and writing helps to make sense of that. The music is for the maniacally productive Phil; the writing is for the depressive Phil. They're both enjoyable, of course, but I take writing more seriously.

9. I love that your latest release with the band is based around William Faulkner, how did that come about?

I love Faulkner, and I wanted to base an album on his novel, Absalom, Absalom! — a very tricky book to read, let alone make music out of. But I told my bandmate, Sam, that it would give the new album a focus, and I gave him pretty much free reign to do the kind of music he wanted. Then I wrote some of my own tracks, and we worked creating something like a harmonious whole, connected by the lyrics and some self-referential musical nonsense, etc. It was an amazing time, but stressful as hell, because we knew not everyone was going to "get" it. It mixes so many genres — classical, rock, IDM, jazz — that the people who liked the early Paris and the Hiltons sound were, on the whole, disappointed, I think. But that doesn't bother me, because I think it was our best effort up till now.

10. As a co-founder of LitReactor.com, what do you want to see come of the site?

I'd like to see it grow into a really invaluable resource for writers. We're still working on things, but so far things have been smooth. Because we're not relying on anyone else for funding and stuff, we can take risks, which is nice. And with enough people participating in the (already really active) workshops, we should be seeing some really great writers emerging soon.

11. I see that you're fluent in more than one language, do you think this affects the way you write? Wording, tempo, flow, etc.?

No doubt. I speak Portuguese and French aside from English. It's useful to know languages with different origins. I particularly love Portuguese literature (Jose Saramago, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Jose Luis Peixoto) so it's great to be able to read them in the original Portuguese, when I'm feeling brave — highbrow Portuguese lit is pretty challenging. I read a lot in French, too, mainly works of philosophy and psychoanalysis, for the academic work and for my own intellectual pleasure. Seeing how different languages work around the problem of saying stuff is fascinating.

12. What's going on with your other band, Dawn of the Gecko?
It's on hold. Once upon a time, Paris and the Hiltons was just me, and Dawn of the Gecko was a comedy-cabaret duo for live playing. Now that Sam, the other half of Gecko, is part of Paris and the Hiltons Gecko is on hiatus. But we had some fun times playing that music.

13. What made you go after the MA in Philosophy? Do you think it's helped in your own writing?

I switched from English Lit to Philosophy because I wanted a change. It was a good decision. Whether it helped with the writing — maybe. Not at the level of composition, but I'd say being away of the questions raised in the last 40 years about the nature of "writing" certainly made me aware of many possibilities in literature that I might not have been aware of otherwise.

14. You seem to have your name all over the interwebz, but your personal site is lacking, do you have plans for it?

My blog, www.slothrop.com, is basically "my personal site" even though I share writing duties with my friend Jack. But eventually there will be a real "personal" site where people can find out stuff about me, if they're bored enough.

15. It looks like you've had books published before, but consider Praise of Motherhood your first, why?

Because those books weren't serious. They're experiments in self-pub from a bygone age. I didn't think I was going to take writing as seriously as it turns out I do. And Praise of Motherhood is the only one that feels like it actually says something interesting about the world. So it's the one I'm officially beginning my career with.

16. You're a world traveler, do you think that seeing all of these cultures has changed your own view of the world? Your writing?

Certainly. You can't write the same way you used to when you've seen India, Turkey, Namibia — all these places filled with weirdness and new things to do and feel. Suddenly the little world you grew up in seems less interesting on its own, and it becomes part of a map, not the map.

17. For some reason, I think you want to talk about your "husband," Jack Joslin, you can do that here.

He's a great dude. We've been Facebook-married for a number of years now. And he's writing a novel about my band. How could I think anything bad about him? Although he has a habit of screaming late at night — so loud that it wakes me up. And then I walk to his room and he's lying on the floor covered in sheep's blood, scratching at his face, saying, "I just want my father to love me." That gets a bit depressing. I have lots of sleeping pills.

18. What does your writing schedule look like? Are you an every day writer?
I write when I feel like it. Otherwise I do something else. I don't understand why so many people try to force themselves to write if it's not coming out. I try to go for at least 500 words at a time, but that's just a rule of thumb. I can write 200 words or 2000. I don't beat myself up about it.

19. As an early adopter of Facebook, do you see social media becoming a bigger part of our lives? Author's lives?

I've been on Facebook since 2006, which I guess is early, but I'm still ambivalent about it. I love posting moronic updates, and it's nice to keep in touch, but I don't feel comfortable being "serious" on Facebook. Too many privacy issues. However, when I post a link to my blog or something on there, I often get 50 or 60 views just from that, which is cool. I hope that goes up with time.

Eventually it's going to be completely unthinkable for most authors not to use social networking. Even now it's kind of weird when an author doesn't have an online presence. I don't think anything gets "cheapened" by that.

20. What's next, other than running the press and the PhD, of course?

A new novel, a new album — and a lot of screwing up, so I can get that out of the way.

Thank you!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

# 29 Chad Kultgen

Twenty Questions with Mourning Goats
Chad Kultgen

Average? How about every? I only found Chad this past year, and now that you're reading this, I hope you find him in 2012! If you do the research, you'll find  Chad grouped in with the likes of Tucker Max, Dick Masterson, and Maddox, but after reading all three of his books, I believe he's something more than just fratire or guy-lit, he's one of the first honest voices of men in their late twenties/early thirties. Enjoy his interview, below!

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

Sounds like a bad independent movie about some self-involved, depressed guy in his mid-twenties who inherits a goat farm from his dead estranged father. Something like the guy shows up at the farm to settle up with the bank, just sell the thing and be done with it, but then he runs into the wiser-than-her-years precocious girl who lives on the farm next door and he decides to stick around. While he’s on the goat farm he learns valuable lessons about life and is forced to deal with the relationship he never had with his father and he comes to a new understanding of who his father was by performing the day to day activities that comprised his father’s life on the goat farm for the last 15 years. In the end he doesn’t fuck the girl, because he realizes she’s far more than just a sexual encounter. She’s his angel. She’s the light that pulled him through the darkness of his life. There’s a shitty soundtrack of overindulgent independent music. And I’d guess the family’s last name is Goates.

2. You went to film school at USC, how did that effect your writing?

I’m not sure that it did all that much. USC taught me screenplay format. That was about it. Creatively I don’t know that it had any impact on me. Certainly those four years in college were an important time to fuck around (with writing I mean) and figure out what I wanted to write about, what I thought was interesting or worth writing about, but in terms of teaching me technique or craft, I’d say USC had no impact. Watching and making movies to get a degree was fun, though. I highly recommend it if you don’t care about your degree actually meaning anything to anyone once you graduate.

3. What can you tell us about your current project, Average American Marriage? Is it as delightfully honest as Average American Male?

It’s the same main character from the first book who is now married with little kids. I’d say it’s at least as abrasive as the first book if not more so. There’s something a little bit worse (at least to me) about the guy trying to masturbate with kids in the house or having sexual fantasies about pregnant women at baby showers.

4. What do you owe your success to? Selling over 100,000 of your first book is a phenomenon in today’s market.

I don’t know. I don’t really think of myself as that successful. I guess when you throw that number out there it’s technically successful, but until I have a New York Times bestseller or actually have enough money to buy a house in Los Angeles I’ll just consider myself a guy who got lucky enough to be able to do what he loves for a living.

5. If someone wrote a book about me, even a negative book about me, I think I would take it as a compliment, any experience with this?

I can only assume you’re referring to the book my ex-girlfriend wrote that includes a section about our relationship, which she sold on the claim that one of my books (Average American Male) is about her (Hilary Winston – My Boyfriend Wrote A Book About Me). I don’t take it as a compliment or an insult. She wrote a book about her life. I was a part of her life for a period of time and for a series of events that were significant to us both. She’s a very smart and funny girl and I found those qualities reflected in what she wrote.

6. Your newest book is much different than your first two, do you think you’d like to write in a more literary way, or continue with the feeling of your first two books?

I’ve enjoyed the process of writing everything I’ve done – books, movies, tv shows. I don’t have a set agenda on where I’d like to take my writing. I think the story and characters kind of inform the style of whatever I’m writing. So it’s tough to say outright that I’d like to go in a more literary direction. My next book is a sequel to my first so at least for the time being, I’m going back to that style.

7. Do you feel like where you write directly affects what you write? What do you think LA does for your writing?

My writing location doesn’t ever have any impact on the story, but it can certainly inform the details of the environment in which the story is told at least with the books I write. I’d say that I certainly like to know the places I’m setting a story in. I feel like the details of restaurants and movie theaters and malls and the various locations in a town make the story seem more real. So the Average American Male books were set in Los Angeles where I currently live. The Lie was Dallas, where I grew up. Men, Women and Children was Lincoln, Nebraska, which I’ve never even visited but did a lot of research about before writing the thing. 

8. Do you really believe that if you're not moving to NYC, LA, or another large city, you're just waiting to settle down and make babies? 

No. I don’t think that at all. I don’t know that actual statistics but I’d guess that people who move to larger cities to pursue some career in an industry that is rooted in one of those cities tend to start families later because they’re initially focused on career. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that if a person doesn’t move to a big city, they’re automatically only interested in “settling down and making babies.”

9. In one interview, about your writing routine, you said, "It’s very simple. If I’m not at the gym, playing video games, fucking, or drinking, I’m writing." That is the best routine I've ever heard! Do you find it easy to slip in to the mindset needed for each project or is it easy for you?

I’m glad you approve of my routine. I’ve always found it pretty easy to focus on whatever project I need to as deadlines dictate. The more different from one another they are the easier it is usually to switch from one to the other.

10. What's going on with Drones, your dark comedy being developed by FX?

I’m writing the pilot episode currently. I’ll get some notes, do some rewrites and then see if I did a good enough job to actually get to make the pilot episode. Then if that turns out well, I’ll see if I get a series order. Time will tell.

11. How do you think we're evolving with communication and information? Is instant access to everything helping the future or harming it? 

I think it’s definitely helping it. I don’t see a scenario in which “instant access to everything” could harm the future. But no one’s personal opinion on the rate of technological growth, good or bad, will change the fact that rapid expansion in communication technology will continue to happen.

As far as how I think we’re evolving with communication and information – we’re accepting it, embracing it and changing the way we live to make it a bigger part of our lives. When I was in high school the internet didn’t really exist. Now the average high school kid not only has Facebook and Twitter, but they have a smart phone that gives them constant access to it. And these things (Facebook, Twitter, Smart Phones) are only interim technologies. They’re only the first steps toward what seems like it will have to a kind of hive mind that we’re all plugged into, a conduit that streams everyone’s thoughts and feelings through everyone else’s brains. It’s like we’re seeing the invention of the wheel but we also have the foresight to know that a car isn’t far away.

12. You're currently in Texas for the holidays (I can only assume), is it a culture shock, going from LA to Texas?

I was in Texas for the holidays visiting my family. I don’t know if it’s a culture shock because I grew up in Texas so I know what to expect. But there are several differences between Texas and Los Angeles. The most apparent differences to me are that in Los Angeles every 3rd car is a Prius. In Texas every third car is an F150. Also there are many more Christian bumper stickers in Texas than in Los Angeles.

13. What's the deal with the squirrels? 

If you’re talking about the squirrels that live outside my kitchen window, the deal is that I feed them nuts.

14. Have you done any book tours or readings? How have they gone? Do you enjoy them? 

I did a few for this last book. They were all bigger independent book stores in Portland, Denver, Los Angeles and New York. They were all great and I can’t wait to go back to them with the Average American Male sequel next year. At a few of them I tested out a little performance art by making prank phone calls to the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s prayer line and having them ask Jesus to make our next president a gay president. That’s always fun.

15. You wrote an amazing aritcle on mademan.com, Why Diamonds Are For...Suckers, do you write a lot of social commentary, like this? Where can we find some of it?

Thanks. I wish I did more, but that’s really the only one I’ve done.

16. Do you think that writing has become much less lonely, nowadays? With Facebook, twitter, etc, it's easier to become a part of a community nowadays.

Was it lonely before? I don’t know that I have anything to compare it to. I’m personally not lonely. I do like that the internet has made it much easier for people who read your stuff to contact you. I like hearing from people who have read my stuff, especially if they didn’t like it. I know what I think of the stuff I write and it’s always interesting to hear what someone else thinks of it. 

17. In the interviews of yours that I've read, it says most of the writers you look up to are sci-fi writers, how do you explain the genre you write in compared to what you like to read?

Most of my favorite writers are all science fiction writers. I guess the stuff I do is pretty much the exact opposite of science fiction. It’s as rooted in contemporary reality as I can make it. I don’t know why that’s the case. I guess the stuff I write doesn’t necessarily entertain me. It interests me. Science fiction entertains me. It interests me, too, though. I really don’t have a good answer for you on this one. Apologies.

18. Your writing feels like the kind of stream of conscious writing that goes through most peoples minds, but is never said out loud. How did you go about selling your writing?

I’ll assume you just want to know about the books and not the movies or TV shows. So the story of how I sold the books is as follows – I had agents for movies and TV and I had written a complete manuscript of The Average American Male that my feature and TV agents would sometimes send around as a writing sample. Eventually, I ended up selling The Average American Male to Showtime as a TV show. I wrote the pilot and they never made it. But through that process I was able to get a book agent who sold the book to Harper Perennial in under a month if I remember correctly (with the help of a young editor there who really championed the thing).

Harper was great to me. Everyone there really helped in getting the thing out there and it luckily did well enough that they wanted me to write some more books for them. That’s the long and short of it.

19. I read your first two books on my kindle 3, what do you think of e-readers and what do you think they mean for literature?

I think they’re great. I want as many people to be able to read my stuff as possible and it seems like the e-readers allow more people to be able to get access to it. As far as what they mean for the future of literature… that’s a longer answer.

I don’t really know what will happen to literature or to books in general, but every media industry (music was the first) is being forced to deal with this issue of no longer controlling the hard copy of their media. All media will eventually be delivered digitally and the hard copies will likely be produced in limited quantities for fans and collectors if that media format applies. Like video games, for example, I’ll seriously doubt anyone will care if they own a hard copy of a video game in 5 years. But books and records I think will be around.
So it seems to me that model with books will most likely shift to something like 99% digital publishing and 1% of the market will be limited print run hardcovers, which will probably all be signed or come with some additional collectable packaging, of the huge titles that fans will buy. 

I don’t know that it will change the content of literature all that much, just the formatting. I think you’ll start to see more and more, shorter novella type serialized series selling for 99 cents per “book.” Things like that, but there will still be writers and there will still be people who want to read what they write.

20. What's next for Chad Kultgen, other than Average American Marriage?

I’m working on a bunch of different stuff – a few TV projects, a few movie projects, the book that will be after Average American Marriage, a comic book is floating into the mix. Basically I’m just writing as much as I can until people decide to stop letting me do it or I die.

Thank you!

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