Interviews · Publishing · Writing

An H and Five Ws with Fiction Author Karl Meade, Part 2

Where do we like to write? “In bed. In a bar. Anywhere alcohol or sex is involved,” says Karl Meade. I hope you loved Part 1 of this interview, and Part 2 is just as comically inappropriate and inventive. What a guy. Love his work. Reminder: Karl’s website is Go visit! And watch out for his upcoming release, Odd Jobs!

The completion of An H and Five Ws with Fiction Author Karl Meade.

What do you dislike about being a writer?
The isolation, both physical and psychological. The irony of being a writer is that to examine what it is to be human, you almost have to drop out of the flow of being human. You become observer rather than participant.

The only photo I have of Karl Meade. He's very mysterious, okay?
The only photo I have of Karl Meade. He's very mysterious, okay?
I read a quote by a Canadian writer, Keath Fraser, where he talked about the writer as pearl diver. Except that as a novelist, you re-surface years later, gasping with the bends, holding your shining pearl aloft, only to find the world has moved on. The diving boat is long gone, and your diving partners don’t recognise you with beard and grey hair. You turn to comic, self-effacing prose, and fruit juices. Put more simply: you’re a madman boring the shit out of your friends with your latest half-baked project. And you can hardly blame them for yawning.

Physically: carpal tunnel, shoulder knots and eye strain. My lower back has bought my masseuse a new SUV. I may write my next novel by hand, partly because it’s a period piece, and partly to change the way I approach the text. Then I’ll pay my daughter to type it on an IBM Selectric, just for the sound of it.

Writing has also made me a dyslexic stuttering fool. I can hardly get a sentence out without stopping to orally edit myself mid-stream—restructuring sentences, stack-dumping thesaurus outputs, while mobilising arguments against the very idea that under-pinned the sentence in the first place: nonsense, you fool.

Writing has made me a grotesque. And I love me for it.

Where in the world have you felt most inspired to write?
In bed. In a bar. Anywhere alcohol or sex is involved. Like drinking, and sex, I only write when alone or with someone else. The setting doesn’t matter much. Actually, that’s not quite true. The best place is in any room where I am alone. If I can close the door and find relative quiet and calm, the pen soon appears. No matter where that room is.

When have you been most frustrated by the publishing process?
My first novel, “Half-Life”, was rejected about 75 times. I had been writing for over 15 years and had spent 8 years writing and re-writing “Half-Life”. Two agents had already said they would represent “Half-Life”, and then changed their minds. When this happened a third time, after a year of re-writes with this third agent, I hit a bit of a low.

Odd Jobs, by Karl Meade. Available Fall 2009.
Odd Jobs, by Karl Meade. Available Fall 2009.
But after a few months of chatty therapy, the decapitation fantasies receded, somewhat, and life came down to a basic decision: I would either write or I wouldn’t. I decided to write a book for the pure fun of it. That book became “Odd Jobs”, which I’m publishing this fall. As they say, out of darkness comes light. Out of failure comes…. well, probably more failure. And then more therapy, and more material, another book, and more fun.

WHY are you a WRITER??
Who said I was a writer? I’ve always said that as an engineer I make a pretty good writer, and as a writer I make a pretty good engineer. But if you want to suffer a more serious stab at this killer question, I’ll start by copping out with two quotes:

1) Northrope Frye: “The fundamental job of the imagination in ordinary life is to produce, out of the society we have to live in, a vision of the society we want to live in.” (That is, a world in which I’m handsome, make the NHL, and get the girl.)

2) Gertrude Stein: “Disillusionment in living is finding that no one can really ever be agreeing with you completely in anything.”

The sad, and comic, thing about life is that ultimately we are alone in our experience. I think everyone feels there is much more to our lives than we can possibly express in conversation, that our spoken words fall far short of the wondrous “otherness” that underlies our experience of being alive. Since writers are semi-nuts and live in denial, they try to transcend this. I think this is what art, in all forms, is trying to get at. With the possible exception of disco.

But I’m not necessarily trying to rewrite or clarify my past experience; rather I’m trying to crystallise what it’s like to experience life from my point for view. Maybe this is the point of story and myth: to create a parallel universe we can share from a common vantage point—in a theatre, around a campfire, or on a couch with a book. And then to spend a few pleasant hours vehemently, completely, disagreeing over what it is, and what it means. Sharing our disillusionment.

But this is way too serious. Everyone knows the real reason “why” is for the chicks and the money.

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