An Interview with Brian Alan Ellis
Brian Alan Ellis is the author of a new collection of short stories called Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty. You can read my review at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography here. We talked about inspiration, writing habits, and other profound stuff.
What inspires you to write these sick, sad stories?
The majority of the stuff, especially in my previous books, was written in my twenties, when I was wild and on drugs and hanging out with lots of other wild-and-on-drugs people. Just broke, lost, and alone. But laughing and having fun at the same time. Not giving a shit. I’ve changed a bit with age, not too much, but enough to where, hopefully, my writing has evolved. Still sad and sick, though. Funnier too, or just as funny. I mainly want people to laugh and be entertained. Sometimes the stuff is a bit too raw and bums people out, but I swear it’s never my intention.
How does place inform your writing? Many of your stories have a run-down Florida vibe to them.
I was raised in Florida, and I currently live here, so I guess I’m just lucky. Actually, for me, I don’t think location informs my writing too much, if at all. Maybe if I lived in New York I’d write about subways and corner bodegas more. Also, you’d be hard pressed to find a place in America that doesn’t have a run-down vibe to it. Then again, my forthcoming novel is currently dedicated to Florida, so maybe I’m completely full of shit, or lazy. Both.
With NaNoWriMo this November, tell us about your writing habits?
I had to Google NaNoWriMo, so that should tell you what I think of writing habits. I just write when I feel inspired. I don’t sit down and force it, or look at it like it’s a job. I am always thinking about it, though. I’m always thinking about edits to a particular manuscript or story or whatever, and I attribute that to my obsessive compulsiveness. I don’t care about word counts (too much) or agents (at all), and I’ve been known to distance myself from writing to pursue other creative outlets, sometimes for years. I think I might try stand-up comedy in a few years.
What challenges do you face writing these short pieces? And a related question: Any longer pieces in the works?
I’ve always preferred flash fiction over anything else. I enjoy the episodic nature of it, both in reading it as well as in writing it. I like brevity, simplicity. On the flipside of that, I do have a novel coming out sometime next year from Lucky Bastard Press (Something to Do with Self-Hate). It’s probably not your traditional novel. It’s shorter than your average novel. It’s not some massive Franzen thing. I basically took a lot of the short stories from previous books and mashed them into one coherent narrative, adding new stuff here and there. So it’s basically a retelling of my older shit. It’s pretty much Evil Dead II, in that respect. Lots of demons, but no chainsaws, unfortunately.
What is your take on Class in America?
I don’t really think about Class in America. I figure, we all burn in the fiery pits of our own hell, so I’m chill with it.
Any interesting books you’ve been meaning to read, but haven’t got around to yet?
I’d have to check my Kindle, which is full of books I’ve either downloaded or people have sent me. Lots of Bizarro, I’m sure. Lots of that Frankenstein-Sea-Monster shit. So I’m scared to look. I think your book (The NSFW Files) is buried somewhere in there, so I gotta dig it out.
Are there any little-known books you’ve read that you’d recommend others to read?
I don’t know what’s considered little-known. I guess if it’s not “written” by a celebrity, it’s little-known. The New York Stories by Ben Tanzer is a beautiful piece of work. Bud Smith’s novel, F-250, is fun as fuck. Sam Pink sent me his new one that isn’t out yet and it’s great. Andrea Kneeland’s book, How to Pose for Hustler, is incredible. Lots of stuff. Check back.
Any helpful hints for aspiring writers?
Don’t take yourself so seriously. Don’t think you need an agent or a “reputable” publisher. Just make shit. Have fun. Connect with other creative people but keep a healthy distance and don’t be fake about it. Never use #amwriting on social media. Prepare to die broke and alone.