The Writer’s Handful with James Tadd Adcox

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Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

Curbside Splendor is at it again–publishing cutting edge work by butt-kicking emerging writers. Does Not Love is the debut novel of JAMES TADD ADCOX, and folks are paying attention to it. Roxanne Gay says “…Adcox is a writer who knows how to make the reader believe the impossible, in his capable hands, is always possible, and the ordinary, in his elegant words, is truly extraordinary.” And Electric Lit tells us “Does Not Love is funny, surreal, satiric, pensive, and strangely haunting.”

On his blog tour, James Tadd Adcox stopped by The Writer’s Handful, and I am glad he did.

Welcome James!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

I feel like I’m basically always working on something. I do a lot of writing in transit. I’m planning to spend some time on a train, later, working on an essay about Donald Barthelme.Man & Woman Front

 

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

A game, actually–I spent most of my childhood and early teenage years writing/designing games, mostly really complicated board games or card games, and then later on roleplaying games. I thought for a long time that I might want to design games as a career. (A friend of mine who used to be a collaborator in writing these games is doing that now, publishing them through indie games publishers on the West Coast).

The first game I remember writing was a book, something like a Choose Your Own Adventure but with some role-playing elements to it (you could collect items, buy things, your character advanced over time)–probably ripped off of this series of books that was around then, Lone Wolf, which did basically the same thing. I don’t especially remember the game’s plot, except that it had something to do with saving the world, and at some point a character who you were supposed to trust turned on you.

I’ve always preferred designing games or watching other people play them to playing games myself, though. I don’t know what that says about me, but I feel like it makes a kind of sense, as a disposition, for a writer.

 

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Silence: A Christian History by Diarmaid MacCulloch, and Either/Or by Soren Kierkegaard. MacCulloch also wrote a massive history of Christianity called Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years; this one’s a bit shorter and more focused.

 

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

I’m terrible at taking advice. Mostly I have to keep doing something wrong long enough to learn not to do it.

Though it isn’t really advice, and wasn’t directed at me, Bertolt Brecht at some point in his journals talks about needing to develop sufficient butt-strength to write a novel; he says, at the time, that he has not gotten good enough at sitting down long enough to write one, but he is working on it… Does Not Love is a short novel, which I’m okay with—I wanted it to be a short novel, and it ended up being right around the size that I’d planned for when I started—but I’d like to develop enough sitting-ability or butt-strength to write something longer.

 

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

There is a kind of spider that makes a decoy of itself out of leaves and dead insects, and can make the decoy move, just like a real spider. It looks realistic enough that at first it fooled the scientists that discovered it into thinking that the decoy was, in fact, the spider. Ideally I would like my writing to be something like that.

Image from wired.com
Image from wired.com

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James Tadd Adcox is the author of a novel, Does Not Love, and a collection of stories, The Map of the System of Human Knowledge. He lives in Chicago.

The Writer’s Handful with Tom Williams

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Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

“Part elegy, part master-student story, part road-trip Americana, Williams riffs on the dichotomy between appearance and reality.” That’s how Kirkus Reviews talks about Tom Williams new comedic novel, Don’t Start Me TalkingThe story of Brother Ben, the “only remaining True Delta Bluesman” (Ted Dawson, and anyone else who is enthralled with music and blues culture, get this book!) is one of the latest additions to Curbside Splendor‘s fabulous literary roster. Lucky for us, Tom had a moment to answer some questions here, just as he heads back on the road.

Welcome Tom!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

No, because I’m on an early leg of a book tour and only just got my power cord out of my car, which was parked in the garage next door to the hotel and am still trying to orient myself to Central Time.cover

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

Aside from things I had to do in school, the first thing I remember was in the winter of 1978, which was a pretty bad one in Central Ohio, so bad that my school system could only reliably heat the junior high. Thus, all the kids would come in on one day of the week and get their weekly assignments, then go back home until the next week. I was in sixth grade, so I was eleven. But in addition to all this, my grandmother, who lived a couple hours away in Akron, started sending my sister and me these supplemental things to do to pass the time while we watched the winter take over our lives. And each week she’d ask us to do extra chores and some intellectual and creative exercises and then we’d get twenty bucks if we completed enough tasks. One thing was to write a story. I cheated and wrote a comic book, borrowing characters from Marvel and DC and throwing them into a time-travel/dinosaurs deal, but I remember still the thrill it gave me, and, as Hawthorne said of the “sensible ends of literature”: “the solid cash.”

What are you reading right now?

I’m teaching, so I just finished re-reading Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” and was surprised at how much I cannot tire of that. I also just finished Samantha Irby’s Meaty, and it is a real wonder. She’s a label mate at Curbside Splendor, so I’m probably biased. Just as I am with Dave Housley’s Commercial Fiction and Ben Tanzer’s Orphans: both dynamite. But this is a period where the books keep coming and there’s a lot to choose from and, most of all, a lot to be wowed by.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

Hemingway and Andre Dubus: Stop in the middle of a sentence and come back to it the next day. I have done this for years now and find it to be so useful and practical, yet it verges on the spiritual. Stopping in the middle very nearly makes one commit to completing the next sentence, and it stands to reason that another sentence will follow.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

A chameleon. Though I just found out that, really, chameleons don’t change color to match their backgrounds, that common misperception is what I want my writing to do: I want it to always take on the characteristics and hue and heft of the story I’m trying to tell, to be so integrated that it’s only in the briefest of moments—and then you’re not even sure—that you see a flash of movement that suggests there’s more to the story than at first appears.

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Tom Williams is the author of the novel, Don’t Start Me Talkin, just released by Curbside Splendor. His first book, The Mimic’s Own Voice, a novella, was published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. He chairs the English Department at Morehead State University and lives in Kentucky with his wife, Carmen, and their son.

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→Don’t Start Me Talkin’, just released. Thanks, Tom, for talkin’. Thanks, as always, to everyone for reading. -PMc←