Tuesday, September 16, 2014
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Wayne Clark
1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?
It was never really a conscious decision. It seems to me I’ve always been writing in one for or another. I’ve been a journalist, a translator, and an advertising copywriter. When I was 14 I decided I wanted to be a newspaperman and began creating my own newspaper on scrapbook paper by rewriting news items I'd heard on the radio, or writing accounts of ballgames I'd listened to. I would paste the articles onto the scrapbook sheets, laying them out like a newspaper. My only readers were my parents. I also kept journals, but I don't recall taking a real run at fiction until my early 20s, when I wrote an hour-long radio play for Canada's public broadcasting network, the CBC. However it was never produced because in my enthusiastic ignorance I had used far too many characters — 20 or so. The show's budget allowed for only a handful, even with actors doubling. I remember how painful the 10 or 20 minutes were to write, then having a miserable time trying to keep the script down to 60 minutes. Anyway, that was my first agonizing, but exciting, experience with writing fiction.
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
I'm not young, so hat's really hard to answer. There have been too many books that have left me saying, "My God, what a writer!” or “ My God, what just happened to me?” However, in recent years, Philip Roth really got to me a couple of times, in The Humbling and The Dying Animal. Both books deal with aging, relationships, sexuality, and the fragility of the images we have of ourselves.
3. What was the inspiration behind your novel he & She?
I'm not sure of the moment that the idea for this actual book, he & She, occurred to me. What certainly opened the door was meeting a dominatrix some time before. She was a young woman who was curious about life. Taboos were a red handkerchief for her, which is a very healthy state of mind when you're young. She was someone, like a lot of young people today, who found that jobs waitressing or clerking at minimum wage in a store or doing temp secretarial duties didn't add up to her notion of being alive.
Over time — I'm talking about several years — I found myself trying to concoct some kind of story about her. I often like to just start writing and see what comes out, be it a scene or, depending how it goes, maybe even a short story. The novel itself grew out of one of those little deals we make with ourselves to make our lives better in some way. I was going through a bit of a depression and I decided to see if I could start each day for 21 days in a row writing fiction — anything that came out of my fingers — for an hour or two, or as long as my morning pot of coffee lasted. It started with just a few words ending up on the screen by the end of the session,
4. Was the lowercase "h" in the title intentional? If yes, what was your reason?
It was very intentional. Besides the fact that the book is primarily about a relationship between two people, the title he & She came from a practice in the BDSM community whereby dominants get a capital "D" and submissives are referred to with a lower-case "s". There’s an elaborate protocol around that sort of thing in some circles. Not everyone uses it, but it is common. The visual juxtaposition of the words "he" and "She" was the idea of the graphic designer, Nell Chitty, of Toronto, who created the cover. I love the cover because it says clearly and simply that the story must revolve around a very particular relationship, one in which the woman, the SHE of the title, is the character with her foot on the accelerator in this story.
5. We're any of the events/emotions taken from real life?
As for emotions, yes, lots, but for the most part they are recreated from other contexts. The feeling of loss, be it the result of an unexpected death, or a friend who suddenly no longer recognizes you on the street, it’s all very much the same. We all experience it at some time or other, and I tried to capture that in the book. Although loneliness and aging aren’t really events, they are often partners in life. Many of us find ourselves with fewer and fewer friends as life goes along, the result of changing circumstances, death, and the fact that the older you get the less time you spend out and about where you can perhaps start new friendships. I once caught myself falling in love with a younger woman. As absurd as the situation clearly was I was left in awe of the fact that I could still succumb to feelings of that intensity. It meant there was no reason why I couldn’t feel such intense passion about other things in life. But how do you turn on that switch?
6. Will we ever see another book of this nature from you?
To be honest, I find it hard to say yes. I would like to write about some of the same things, the things that fill a lot of my idle thinking time, but I have trouble imagining it all turning out in a similar way. Not so very long into the writing of he & She, the story gathered energy, seemingly on its own. There were days when I felt it was a tropical storm threatening to turn into a hurricane. I had to keep typing like mad just to outrun it. What caused that? I still don’t know. I didn’t plot out the book yet the story evolved anyway. It would be wonderful — as an experience for me — if I could get that plugged into my head again.
7. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?
Historical fiction. I’ve always loved history as a reader but as a writer the idea of placing myself in another time seems liberating somehow, like learning to play an instrument not based on Western scales. Your ears let new ideas take form. I also like the idea of going back to a time when a youngster would feel there was still much to discover about the world. Adventure just around the corner, that sort of thing.
8. What was your original goal while writing he & She?
As I mentioned above, it started out as a self-therapy undertaking. There were no goals at the beginning. There was no outline. I wanted to see where my fingers would take me. But once I knew I had a story to tell, I realized it had a lot to do with the need for passion in our lives, the passion that comes naturally to the young. Many of us live without it
9. Why decide to write about what is, essentially, a midlife crisis 50 years in the making?
One of the reasons was the realization I just mentioned, about the diminishing passion for life, and the feeling of helplessness in the face of it. Even the smaller things, like the joy of eating, seem diminished. I know that’s not the case for everybody, but it is true for many people. Ours is very much an aging population, and for a lot of people, life is not turning out the way they thought it would. I think a lot of people probably ask themselves now and then, “Is this it, is this all there is?” The initial panic might last only a microsecond, but it can take up residence.
10. Would you like to see he & She in theaters or on TV? I could, personally, see it on stage, with long soliloquies, like modern Shakespeare. If so, what actors would you like to see play your characters?
I cannot imagine it on TV. I would like to see it as a movie, but there would be problems, at least in America, because there is little on the surface that’s mainstream about the book, and so much takes place only in Kit’s mind. This isn’t a criticism about American directors, just the studios. However, I’ve been known to daydream about getting a call from a European director many years from now, just as I’ve all but forgotten about the book. As for long soliloquies, I realize the challenge the book would represent, on stage or in a film. But one day I did find myself imagining John Malkovich, a younger version of him, pulling it off. He doesn’t fit my physical image of Kit but that wouldn’t matter. That man is an incredible actor, stage or screen. It would take an actor like him.
11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
I’m not young — I look a lot younger than I am — so I’m doing my damndest to think much more in the present than has been my habit in the past. It will involve writing to some extent because I’ve always written. I’ve written novels before he & She, but ended up hugely disappointed in them. I never considered them finished. However writing he & She was one of the most joyfully intense experiences of my life. I think if learning how to promote a self-published book hadn’t turned out to be so time consuming I might have already experimented with the beginnings of either another novel or short story.
12. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
Trying to become a musician.
13. Can you tell KSR what you're working on next?
I would if I knew. After several years of research, I abandoned an idea for an historical novel in the 1990's. My conclusion, after writing he & She, is that I over-researched the former, over-plotted it. The thrill was gone before the first chapter was written. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll put on a blindfold and start it again.
14. What authors, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?
I’m afraid I’m not very good at collaborating. I’ll correct that: I collaborate well in just about everything except fiction. My writing is my writing. I don’t like to reveal it until I think it’s very close to the final thing. For this book, I put it in the hands of an editor and writer I’ve known and admired for 40 years. That turned out to be a wonderful sharing and learning process. However, I couldn’t imagine the same result with any of the truly great authors, present or past, mostly because apart from their fame I would be dealing with a human being I didn’t know.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
I was 15 years old when I sold my first piece to a local newspaper. I wanted to work and be a grown up as soon as possible. I didn’t like being a teenager. 2) I decide whether I like a piece of music by trying to imagine myself playing it — if I can’t the verdict is no. 3) Though I’m a writer, and one who would be exceedingly nervous about a screenwriter adapting my work, I adore movies. And “thing” number 3½, I find nothing more miraculous in this world that seeing a single actor on stage with the talent to hoodwink me and everyone else in the theater into believing he is someone else for an hour and a half.
Find Wayne Clark online via:
Social media links (clicking this takes you to his website, where all of his social media links are located.)