Saturday, 15 June 2013
Author Interview: Corey Michael Smithson
Corey Michael Smithson is a multi-media artist currently living in Brooklyn. His work explores various dimensions of queerness, identity, gender, eroticism, self-expression, biology, history, beauty, shock, fear, and love. He has dedicated his life to the service of art.
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
I try to start each story with a rough overall framework, a conceptual under-structure, but then I allow myself to improvise and play for long passages. It's as if I'm trying to build a creature, à la Victor Frankenstein, and I'm starting out by assembling a crude skeleton. I have faith that the muscles, tissues, and squishy bits will eventually sort themselves out, as long as I keep working. And, if I remain committed and productive, enough raw material will be gathered together to make a living story ... the flesh will be kneaded into a suitable form, a hot little star will begin to burn in its chest, and the monster will come alive.
Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
Sometimes the actions and decisions of my own characters really surprise me! I'm happy when they seem to have a life of their own, even if I take a dim view of their judgments.
What is your favourite food?
Vegetable samosas ... especially if I can eat them on the street. A close second would be Ethiopian vegetarian fare ... all that wonderful gloppy finger food, eaten with spongy injera.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Definitely a night owl. I do my best work in the wee hours.
Where do you dream of traveling to and why?
There are very few places in the world that I wouldn't want to visit. I'd take the opportunity to go almost anywhere. But, in particular, I'd love to see Morocco, Ireland, Scotland, Ecuador, The Czech Republic, Japan, Germany, Hawaii, South Africa, New Zealand, and Alaska.
Do distant places feature in your books?
My first book, "Lost Among The Marigolds", was a memoir about my life-changing experience of backpacking across India.
Do you listen to music while writing?
Occasionally, but only if it is very familiar, so that I am not distracted by newness. I often turn to my spiritual guide, Judy Garland, for comfort during difficult passages. In general, however, I listen to non-vocal (or, at least, non-English) music while writing.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?
"The Nova In The Attic" is a queer American epic, set at first in a Southern brothel near the turn of the century, and later in a haunted pharmacy. The novel weaves supernatural elements into a multi-generational tale of romance, and blends long-form tragedy with spiritual revelation, all within a richly-detailed historical setting. Some of its plot is based on a significant trauma in my personal life, but "Nova" otherwise evolved organically around my longtime interests ... patent medicines, art, the history of prostitution, immigration, aging, ghosts, Vaudeville, Southern culture, and Show-Biz.
What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?
Writing is about keeping your butt in the chair and plugging away, inspiration or no. Publishing is mostly about promotion.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I would try to involve myself in a community of writers, in order to trade constructive feedback with my fellows.
Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing?
My personal experiences, my travels, research on intriguing topics, dreams, my art practice, the successes and disasters of my love life, and a profound spiritual connection with the work of Judy Garland.
Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?
Explore. Don't over-think your process before starting. Create more material than you'll need and then trim back. Don't wait for inspiration to strike ... start writing and keep going until you feel that little fire come alive inside you.
What are three words that describe you?
Loving, talented, doomed.
What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?
My favorite novel is "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" by Choderlos de Laclos, but my favorite writer overall is Jean Genet.
Blurb of your latest release or coming soon book:
"The Nova In The Attic" is a queer ghost story, one hundred years in the telling, that describes the enduring remnants of love after death. Set at first in a fin de siècle whorehouse and later in an elegantly appointed pharmacy, "Nova" depicts the intertwined lives of an immigrant abortionist, a wise procuress, a drug-addled historian, a glamorous "Fixer", an incandescently brilliant Vaudevillian, and a crass young artist. Traveling through three generations and dozens of vivid characters, the novel reveals within its magic knots a tale of romance, horror, talent, and the unpredictable movements of fortune.
List of previous books if any:
"Lost Among The Marigolds: A Diary of India", my first book, a memoir about my journey across India.
"Young Pim And The Goblins" ... my first novel, a dark fantasy.
Any websites/places readers can find you on the web.
My personal website ... http://www.coreymichaelsmithson.com ... will tell you a great deal more about me and my work. I come from a fine arts background, and this site offers a wide sample of my varied arts output. I'm also on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.