Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Author Interview with Tony Rauch

About the Author: Tony Rauch has three books of short stories published. The first two are more adult related, though young adults may enjoy them depending on their understanding of the themes -  “I’m right here” (spout press) and “Laredo” (Eraserhead Press). The third story collection is geared to Young Adults - “Eyeballs growing all over me . . . again” (Eraserhead Press).  An additional Young Adult title is forthcoming in the next few weeks – “As I floated in the jar.” Samples can be found at –

Rauch has been interviewed by the Prague Post, the Oxford Univ student paper in England, Rain Taxi, has been reviewed by the MIT paper, Rain Taxi, and the Savanna College of Art and Design paper, among many others.

Rauch’s short stories are imaginative, whimsical, dreamy, absurd, surreal, fantasy, sci fi, and fairy tale adventures. The underlying themes relate to fragility, uncertainty, impermanence, the mysteries hidden in everyday life, a sense of discovery, escape, concealment, ennui, regret, loneliness, technology run amok, eerie vibes, irresponsible behavior, confusion, absurd situations, surrealism, modern fairy tales, story starters for young adults and reluctant readers, etc.


Interview with Tony Rauch:

*I am personally a fan of short fiction, but I know some people haven't ventured into this realm much. What do you think is so appealing about short stories?

 I suppose every person has different feelings about this, and it is subjective, but for me the appeals are many, including -
- brevity - they don’t overload you with needless, overly bloated background info.
- experimentation – they can stretch the limits of fiction in form and subject matter.
- succinctness – they get to the point and can wrap things up quickly and neatly.
- volume – being able to experience a variety of adventures in a short period of time.

 *A short piece of fiction really puts the pressure on to deliver a full experience in a condensed package. Do you think it's harder to write short stories as opposed to those that are full novel length?

 Not for me, no. For me I think longer pieces would be harder – to keep that momentum and energy going, the pacing. I’m more of a sprinter, not a marathoner. With shorts, readers can fill in a lot of the details themselves if you paint with broad strokes. The minds eye of the reader can fill things in and flesh things out. I see shorts as being like dreams – sometimes you have to draw some of your own conclusions. In that regard some ambiguity is nice as leaving things out will get a reader thinking on their own about motivations or reasons for things.

 To me novels often have very contrived, soap opera twists and turns, whereas shorts usually focus on one single feeling or event. So that is easier for me to connect with – just focusing on a few things as opposed to trying to not be ‘all over the place’ with things.

 *Pure imagination is evident in all of your stories. Do you know where a story is going to take you when you get that first initial idea or are you kind of surprised yourself?

Sometimes. I try to get the endings first, then work backwards. But sometimes I get a flash of an idea, just a scene or snippet of dialog that I have to build a story around.

Sometimes I surprise myself in that I think a story is going one way and it sometimes ends up being something different – I may find that it works better a totally different way. But that’s part of the surprise and adventure of it - that point of discovery. But that’s what’s nice about short work – you can copy and paste and save, thus you can work on different variants of a story or theme.

Usually I try to have the entire story worked out in my mind or as an outline before bothering to type it up. If I can’t get something to work as fragments of notes, or if I can’t get excited about a vague idea, then it’s probably not worth my time to try to work out further.

Sometimes I’ll look at something months after it’s ‘finished’ and I’ll add some things to it to jazz it up more – an odd little detail here or there to punch up the weirdness and add more detail and depth. So re-visiting work after a long period of time seems to help me get out of the way of myself when bogged down in the initial writing process.

*I am going to assume that your brain is full of ideas and story inspirations considering how many short stories you currently have in Eyeballs Growing All Over Me...Again. How do you decide which ones to write first? Is it based on what you are most excited to write at that point? Or do you make a list and stick to it?

What I’m most excited about. And what is needed. When doing a story collection you need variety. The pieces can’t all be the same. So you need long, medium, short, and a few very short (flash) pieces. Then you need some dialog ones, some first person narratives, description ones, internal monologue ones, and hopefully a second or third person perspective one, etc. You also need some simple, straight forward pieces and a few more elaborate, complicated stories. You need a variety of forms and story types.

So in laying things out, often times good or interesting stories get bumped because they’re redundant to something else in the collection. To me it’s about balance and not being redundant. Then it’s about creating a rhythm to the manuscript as far as order of stories go.

So far coming up with ideas has not been a challenge for me, but that may change at some point. I’m sure eventually I’ll start to repeat myself, though I do already revisit some of the same themes as often I end up thinking of a different takes on them.

I usually have a lot of story notes and outlines saved up and I work on those, filling in the blanks. General ideas are easy, but getting them to work out as stories is the hard part. But the initial ideas seem to come pretty naturally for me.

*I love hearing where writers get there work done. Where can you most often be found writing? And what time of day do you find you are at your most creative?

Location = on my couch in my living room typing on my laptop on a TV stand. But a lot of my ideas just pop into my head throughout the day, so I guess a part of my brain is writing all day long.

Time = late at night. After 9pm. Friday or Saturday night after 11pm is best for me – everything is done (dishes, laundry, dog walked, lawn mowed, calls, emails, etc.) and no one is calling me. So that is the perfect time as my mind is free and clear then. The night feels like a blank slate, waiting to be filled.

Also when I’m on the bus or walking my dog, doing dishes, cleaning, or at the supermarket are good times to think about things and work things out as I have to be at those places or do those things anyway and it’s usually quiet, so why not get something else done too at the same time. That way I avoid wasting time with writer’s block in staring at a blank screen and getting worried about wasting precious time, because I’ve already thought about and worked some things out ahead of time.

So hopefully later in the day I have some ideas worked out, packed away, and ready to unravel.

*Do you think you will ever be able to write a story for all of your ideas? Or do they seem endless?

Hopefully the ideas are different, or different takes on them, and that no single story could encapsulate all my ideas or themes.

I believe I will run out of good ideas eventually and start to repeat the same themes, though every writer I suppose revisits themes as those are the issues they are most concerned about so they’ll probably want to devote a lot of thought and time to them.

*Who are some of your writing inspirations?

Anyone interesting, imaginative, and concise. Anyone who makes you think.
Mostly I like short stories as they get to the point quickly.
I like strange or absurd adventures that are well crafted and have a meaning to them, and sci fi as it offers ideas –

Older writers:
Donald Barthelme, J.D. Salinger, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Charles Bukowski, Franz Kafka, Leonard Michaels (murderers), Jayne Anne Phillips, Robert Coover, Samuel Beckett, Antoine de Saint Exupery (the little prince), Dr. Seuss (cool illustrations), Roald Dahl, Steve Martin (cruel shoes), W.P. Kinsella (the alligator report), Jim Heynen (the man who kept cigars in his cap), Don Delillo.

Contemporary writers:
Barry Yourgrau, Mark Leyner, Adrienne Clasky (from the floodlands), Lydia Davis (Samuel Johnson is indignant), Etgar Keret, Stacey Richter, George Singleton, James Tate (Return to the city of white donkeys), Thom Jones, Italo Calvino, Stephen-Paul Martin, Will Self, Denis Johnson (Jesus’ son), David Gilbert (I shot the hairdresser), David Sedaris, Paul Di Filippo.

Bizarro authors:
D. Harlan Wilson, Andersen Prunty, Carlton Mellick.

Science fiction from the 40s, 50s, and 60s:
Rod Serling, L. Sprague De Camp, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K. Dick, Aurthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Charles Beaumont, Ursula K. Le Guin, etc.

So that’s a lot of influences I guess.

*What type of books do you most enjoying reading at the moment?

Biographies because truth is stranger than fiction.
As for fiction, I would recommend James Tate’s “Return to the city of white donkeys”. That book is all short prose-poems that act as little short stories.

But art and music also really inspires me. I guess art and music gets my mind thinking.

*What was your last book about?

A short story collection. Here is the blurb for that one -

"eyeballs growing all over me . . . again" is a 140 page short story collection of imaginative, whimsical, dreamy, absurd, surreal fantasy, sci fi, and fairy tale adventures. These fables will make great story starters for young adults and reluctant readers. Some of the pieces are absurdist or surreal adventures that hearken back to imaginative absurdism, sci-fi, and fantasy of the 1950s.
With themes of longing, discovery, secrets, escape, eeriness, surprises, and strange happenings in everyday life, readers will delight in these brief but wondrous adventures -

-  a man comes home to discover a Bigfoot-like creature watching his TV.
-  a giant robot pays a visit to a couple.
-  the new kid at school has some unusual toys to share.
-  an inventor creates an attractive robot in order to meet women.
-  a girl becomes so ill she has her head replaced with a goat head.
-  someone wakes to discover little eyes growing all over his body.
-  small, hairy creatures come looking to retrieve an object they had misplaced.
-  a boy finds an unusual pair of sunglasses in a field.

These short stories will give a reluctant reader a sense of accomplishment after reading.

*What is your next book about? When will it be out?

Another short story collection. I don’t know when EHP will release it, but soon – in the next few weeks/months I’m told. Here’s the blurb for that one -

 as i floated in the jar “ is a short story collection of imaginative, whimsical, dreamy, absurd, surreal fantasy, sci fi, and fairy tale adventures. These fables will make great story starters for young adults and reluctant readers. Some of the pieces are absurdist or surreal adventures that hearken back to imaginative absurdism, sci-fi, and fantasy of the 1950s.
With themes of longing, discovery, secrets, escape, eeriness, surprises, and strange happenings in everyday life, readers will delight in these brief but wondrous adventures –

-  a lonely girl finds a small spaceship in the woods.
-  a stranger extracts a baby from a man waiting for the bus.
-  a farmer invents gadgets to fight off infiltrators leaking in from another dimension.
-  a jar falls from a passing wagon, spilling a strange liquid that turns a mud puddle into something else.
-  a gang travels into the past to escape a regression plague that slowly turns people back into primates.
-  strange creatures abduct a man and try to sell him to a different set of strange creatures.
-  a man gets a verbally abusive amorphous blob as a roommate.

These and other adventures await the adventurous reader


Tony, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and answer some questions!


You can find out more about Tony's newest book "eyeballs growing all over me...again" on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.

You can find out more about Tony Rauch and his books on his Blog.

1 comment:

Jessi E. (The Elliott Review) said...

Great interview! I loved reading about the writing/creative process!! :)