Kio Stark wrote one of my favorite books of the whole year. Highly recommended as a present for your literary friends this season. Thanks to Kio for taking some time out to answer some questions. Check out her Kickstarter project. Keep exploring, everyone. I have numbered my questions and her replies are after them.
1. Follow Me Down arose from your interactions with people on city streets which become postings on your blog. Did mystery of the envelope bind these many stories together or did you piece together a story and the mystery arose from there?
I keep a blog called Municipal Archive, it’s vignettes of my interactions with strangers. One day I was playing around and I pulled some of those true moments into a sort of backdrop and it felt like a ripe place for a larger story. So, then I went to check the mail. If you live in an apartment in a big city, you’re part of the remarkable palimpsest of human stories that stack up and vanish with few traces. This all becomes visible in the pile of junk mail and stray Christmas cards that arrive every day for people who haven’t lived in your building for years. What do you do? Toss them? Bother to write “no longer at this address” and drop them back in the mail? Do you open them? So I started thinking about misdirected letters, and all the stories you might find in them. And I took the “I” character from the blog and turned her into someone else, someone very not-me, and I dropped a 20-year old lost letter through her mailslot.
2. Phraseology- as Paul Goat Allen mentioned in review http://bit.ly/kYvX3k your phrasing/word usage, turn of phrase…little bits over larger story.. do you keep a journal of little phrases and work them in…or do they pop-up in the writing process?
I always have a notebook on me, but one thing that’s interesting is I find I sometimes use Twitter as a sort of public notebook for random phrases and ideas that seem worth recording. I tend to favor index cards as a way of recording things like that when I’m writing, because you can move them around and tack them up on the wall. So some of it happens this way, where the phrase occurs, and then it finds a place to nest in the narrative. Other things come up in the writing process.
3. Short interactions / Long Interactions :The small interactions, Lucy’s lover, comments on the street, result in tangible results/ actual effects, while Lucy’s envelope quest results in just further uncertainty. Is the small world of our day to day lives the only thing we can count on? Are there no greater truths or no way of knowing? If so..why the envelope? The grail? Why do people yearn for understanding … ‘pushing the envelope?
Why do people yearn for understanding—well that’s about the biggest question going. I wouldn’t say that small interactions are the only thing we can count on, but I do think they’re deeply important to our sense of belonging and our daily experience of being human. When we have small interactions in everyday life with strangers, they wake us up and make us feel connected.
4. Influence of film: LA NOIR/ noir films/ Maltese Falcon/ Chinatown/influences of film as opposed to strictly from real world encounters.
Suffice to say I watch a lot of that kind of thing. There’s nothing that’s a direct model for the book, but the sensibility is absorbed through one’s pores.
5. The novel evokes Poe’s Purloined Letter (Display a thing and it becomes invisible), but unlike Dupin there is no successful resolution or moral victory. Display a thing and it becomes visible… What is it about envelopes that even in this day of Iphones and email they still evoke such powerful responses?
They are sealed. They necessarily contain a secret, at least for the moment before they are opened. They represent mystery and revelation.
6. Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49 has a female protagonist who may or may not have stumbled upon a vast conspiracy/ secret postal system. The length is even similar to Follow Me Down, have you read it? You touch on similar themes of uncertainty, hidden motives and unclear intentions. You cannot know the Master but you can tickle his creatures.
I have read it and loved it, many years ago, but it wasn’t in the forefront of my mind when I was writing this. Now I want to go back and reread it!
7. Does Lucy even have a brother? Is Lucy a reliable narrator? Is she as unreliable as Madder? I don’t think there is a meta-narrative. Then I think, oh shit, what if not thinking there is not a meta-narrative is the meta-narrative. Then I collapse, frothing at the mouth….
I love that these questions occurred to you and I feel like it would be a shame for me to close down the discussion by answering the question. What readers find in one’s work is always far more interesting than what you put there on purpose.
8. Technology/ lack of technology. Why doesn’t Lucy Google it? She walks to a meeting instead of using a cell phone? Blog about it? What is the date 1986?
The book is set in the present. Lucy uses technology when it suits her. I’d say it’s more of a character issue than it is a matter of her moment. My feeling is, unless you’re in a sci-fi situation or involved in a plot in which technology is the engine, technology in fiction ought to be mundane, ordinary, no more remarkable than the glass of water a character drinks.
9. Illuminated and infuriated – Kirkus review quote… are we always in this condition upon gaining minor revelations about others/self/the world? Is there a German/French word for this? Is there any word for this ?
There must be, but I don’t know it. If there is, it describes my sense of what life is like in general.
10. There are Makers in the world (e.g., Kio’s partner Bre Pettis) they make physical objects and have a tangible result/ Bishop Berkeley: I refute it thus! They are satisfied with the resolution by creating a physical object/ don’t deal with essences/uncertainty. Kio deals with essences and is in a relationship with a Maker. What is the divide/cross interaction between the hidden aspects of the creative world a person who is interested in this/ and a person who lives in a world of tangible things.
That’s a funny question. Bre and I go back and forth a lot about the uncertainty in my fiction. He wants clearer resolutions, and I resist them. But I think he steers me back toward giving just a little more clarity than is my instinct, and that’s a good thing.
11. James Gleick, signal to noise ratio/ information theory/Godel// Errol Morris, thin blue line, NYT article about cannonballs/photography. And this :
There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.
Yes. That’s really my main answer. But also, there are lines that have been echoing in my head for most of my adult life that relate to this. These, from the end of Four Quartets:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
And also, “A stone, a leaf, an unfound door,” from Look Homeward, Angel, which I’ve never actually finished, but started a hundred times.
12. Not trying to be flippant, more like revelant/explore the very sacred : the process of creation for your book and for your daughter….any words?
The book was done by the time the child was baking, and I didn’t write much while I was pregnant. I think watching her become a person now has much more in common with the parts of writing that feel magical or sacred. It’s all about being part of the process of something becoming. We’re addicted to that in one form or another. And at the same time, both the act of writing and the child’s becoming are really about the everyday, routine, unrewarding work. Sitting at the desk and making the words come (who has time to wait for inspiration?); changing the diapers and repeating the act that produced the smile, over and over and over.
A guest post from Joshua Malbin
I explained in the last post I contributed here why I've been serializing my novel Soap and Water rather than publishing it all at once here on Red Lemonade. I'd originally intended to follow that up with a post explaining all the ways you can promote yourself, whether you serialize or not, but I decided it'd probably be more effective if I just described what I use and then invite all of you to add to the list. When we're all done, if there are lots of contributions I'll pull it all together into an easier-to-read form.
Here's what I use. Add your own stuff in the comments.
1. Much of the rest of what I do is made possible by the fact that I have my own website. Web hosting has gotten pretty cheap---I paid under $150 for two years of hosting the last time I renewed the domain with GoDaddy.com. I should say that there's no way I ever would have thought to set this up for myself or known how to design it to look as good as it does. I was lucky enough to have a Web designer friend make a gift of it to me. Maybe you can beg your designer friends to do the same.
2. When I post a chapter here on Red Lemonade, I also post it on my own site in PDF and e-reader formats (ePub, which serves iPad, iPhone, Sony Reader, and Nook, and .mobi, which serves Kindle). I use PDF Creator to make PDFs and then convert those to e-reader formats at 2EPub.com. Both are free, and it saves me from having to monkey around in InDesign.
3. I record myself reading chapters using a Zoom H2 combination microphone/digital recorder, which sells for around $125 to $150. Honestly, though, from what I understand the microphone on an iPhone is good enough now that you can just use that, if you have one. I'm currently hosting the .mp3s on my own site, but I'm thinking about paying the $5 a month to have them hosted through Libsyn, because they automatically syndicate to iTunes for you.
4. When I put up new chapters I Tweet them, post them on Facebook, and send out an email announcement. I like the messages to go out all together at about 9:30 a.m., so I use HootSuite to schedule the Facebook and Twitter messages and MailChimp to schedule the email. Both are free. MailChimp is nice because now I can invite people to sign up for the email reminders. I also get email marketing analytics like how many people opened and clicked my messages. HootSuite is okay, though its analytics cost extra, and sometimes it forgets to post my scheduled messages on Facebook.
So what about you guys? What are you using to promote yourselves? What self-promotional gadgets should the rest of us know about?
Three: Ten One-Pagers
Choose the “most promising” (or at worst, chosen by chance) ten of the bites generated by the previous stage. The task is now to expand/revise each selected bite into a “one-pager” length story/fragment (roughly 300w-450w). The writer may attempt to complete the story within one page or break the story at an arbitrary word length.
Hint One: Unlike the Bites stage, these pieces are to be written much closer in shape to their intended use. This is also the opportunity for you to suggest the larger context of the potential story that will include this page, open lots of doors and windows.
If writing ten one-pagers doesn’t leave you sweating, write one-pagers for each of the twenty bites. Or else write an alternative to each of the ten selected thought parcels that departs as radically as possible from the previous use of the text. Cull your list down to the best ten before moving on to the next stage
Part 2 :
For Part 1 : 40 Sentences and info on the whole process :
Introducing : Red Reads
Dig this, my friend said, as he placed the Sony Walkman headphones over my ears. Some of you will remember the gurgled, mumbled, gargled zero to 60 warblyness, as the cassette tape gripped the header. The current song ended, a short silence, and then a rush of jangly guitars and a unique voice, this was before the stadiums, before Stand, before they lost their religion, and this was R.E.M when they were still not even at the top of the college charts. Do you know how many times I told this story? Do you see I can still feel the headphones slide over my ear? I can see the smile on his face as my head started to rock back and forth with the tune, talk about the passion, indeed. It’s just a murmur from a chronic town.
When Kerouac and Ginsberg visited Burroughs he shared his library with them. Allen left with a legal pad (!) of book recommendations. Free yourself from the confines rationale thought, as ol Bull Lee would say, WSB’s books included : Cocteau’s Opium (natch), Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, , Crane’s Collected Poems (given to Allen), Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West ( for Jack), as well as Maiden Voyage by Denton Welch and T.S. Eliot’s translation of St. Perse’s Anabase. And Blake was there in more ways than one, possibly. From such small acts are revolutions born, of the heart at least, and that’s a start. There is not alot to compare it to, even tho it has happened before. Do you have a few hours to discuss Gravity's Rainbow with me? Timothy Leary, via some Apple 2 software called Mind Mirror recommended it to me. There is a grotesquely beautiful, uniquely sick and horribly funny fetishistic gallows scene in Naked Lunch that my friend who bought me my very own copy of the book have discussed in detail for hours as well. Weeeeeee! I spray painted it on his very garage walls. Next to a quote from Schopenhauer, oh the vanities of youth. They almost got us in the dark field on Halloween night but I lied about my salvation. If you go to that field, move carefully. Do not fold spindle or mutilate. Write fast, take what notes you can. Call him only a few times, act casual. The first time you visit his apartment and you nonchalantly wander over to the bookshelf while he's taking a piss, read as many of the titles as you can- fast! . Strain to see the best book title in order to keep the conversation rolling/get some insight to the heart of the beast you have caged. Make note of the title. Meanwhile, in the Hall of Justice, zip through the card catalog in your mind and find that particular author’s line to share. That funny, surreal one you loved so much you wrote in ink on your open, sweaty palm, remember? Ask not for whom the toilet flushes, it flushes for you, ready ?
Here's the thing : did my friends just share with me just any song? Buy me just any ol book ? Did Burroughs just randomly pick some books from his bookshelf? While he was in the bathroom did you just pick a book by the picture on its cover to ask him about ? After straining your eyes to choose a book to wow your lady-friend, did you just choose the first one you could discern or suss out one that would provide some sort of common ground maybe revealed a little bit of her personae? Ok, guys, you prolly, sweating bullets, threw random questions about the first title you saw, but later, after dinner, or on the next date certainly you got down to bidness right? The deadly serious business of the books you read the physical artefacts, joyful horcruxxes of your very soul. As John Waters once said, don’t sleep with people who don't read books, but one must be more careful now, we live in dark times, and everyone has books. And some of them are enemy agents and will pull the wool over your eyes, blinding you with maya, grand illusions. Look at the back of the tapestry; follow the red threads to detect the hidden pattern. You need as many Zen masters as you can get in this life, armed with short sharp shocks of hard norweigan wood, to crack open your skull, let the Blood spill.
To traverse the city you will need to form alternate identities, punk rocker here, football player there, stone cold uptown, hot water down. You will contain multitudes, fine then. You will need to preen and oil the feathers of your heart : or you will get lost down the alternate paths and never find your way back,no way to fly back home. Your heart will need a clearing in the forest, a clean-house for your protection program , above the door nail a board with your safe-word , build it from hardwoods you find & select from your Dark Forest. Listen : this is about the birdhouse in your soul, not about a good read, not about getting laid, not about hanging out with the popular kids or slummin it in the smoke pit. Do you see ? We are all across the river now. The Flood has passed and they've plastered the rainbows with coke ads and apples, Master Chief. Here's the rub : once you break the enigma machine, you've opened up a whole other bundle of cats. If you just take the info and start bombing supply ships - how soon do you think it's gonna be until your hated enemy catches wise? Nah, you gotta send out some fake spotter planes, make some mincemeat, randomize the stochastic of your foxholes. If your intelligence shows they've broken your naval codes, watcha gonna do, who ya gonna call ? Maybe build a secret crypto team and wreck your own ships "lose" the codebook, so you are "forced" to change all your secrets? You think I've gone off point here, but I have not. The trick is to bang the rocks together, folks. There is no alternative.
If we are gonna fill your birdhouse, then we gonna need birds. And where do birds come from? That's right nest (hold on to your Segways, folks). Here's the thing, the word niche is derived from the word nest. So, quanto ergo sumo, if you want birds for your very soul, you’re going to need to find a niche (oh were cookin with metaphor gas now!). A small slice of the whole pie that speaks your secret language helps you understand the mass. It is a small world, but I would not want to paint it, Steven. No reason to go tearing your eyes out, blinding yourself to all the contingencies you’ve been thrown into. Oh trust me, I pray to the gods everyday to make me a happy robot, take this cup from me and get me a nice job in middle management with a Ford Escalade, 2.3 children and a white picket fence. No severed ears please, Mr. Lynch. It's a crime to leave the herd and go cow tippin. Zion has been destroyed over and over and over again. Have to map out the alternatives. The plow is stuck. The best way out is through, right into the very thick of things, swallow the blue pill, uncertainties and possibilities merge : most of the time you get a Brindle fly, but every once in a while, you get a heart-lemon. And, ermmm, work with me here, let's hold hands like toys before the final fire: lemon-hearts are special kinds of eggs, inside a very special nest, welcome to the Red Lemonade niche.
It is an absconded word , so it means many things and no thing in itself, alternative is not meant for definition, it's a heuristic, a way of seeing, a hint on how to sit still when you are on fire, tips on what to do when you find someone else’s envelope and follow the trail. In the midst of the tragedy of your life it sez someday this will all be funny. It's a mantra to repeat to yourself if you suddenly find yourself in Reagan's America. Or behind the wheel of a large automobile. It’s got hints of the gnomon and there are dogs in the trees, there might even be some happy talk along your picaresque journey... cuts and jabs, light on its feet, heavier than a stone that cannot be lifted from an omnipotent being, it's the last waltz and the first kiss, bits of it may be lost in translation, captures that tiny moment of RNA encryption when the GTCC becomes GACC, things change, it's the space between a hummingbird's heartbeat and the final resounding crash of the whole shebang, you're gonna need a little elbow room, a map that does not have a territory and vice versa, it’s also/and not either/or, it's pop songs of the 80s built on Bach fugues, the click of the watch hand as the universe cools, computers built from stone tablets and codes with no clues, it’s a long winded description that babbles inconsistently. It's a gimmick. Sort of. It's tricky. It needs a hug. Here are some of the Jeopardy categories for this season, Warning: Categories may change with little notice, your mileage may vary, results sadly, typical. Memory. Historical imperatives. Sociological apparatuses. Walter Benjamin. Consciousness. Linguistics. Epistemology. MX Missile. False memory. Social constructs. Mammals. Word play. Neurobiology. Long form narrative. The space between. Uncertainty. A few seconds before you made that decision. Tweets. Benign Indifference. Interpersonal interactions. 18 Maze. The Road To Damascus. Puppets. Your lunch. Epiphenomenal awareness. Loebius Woods. Transit papers. Novels. Private detectives. Semiotics. Giggling. Golf swings. Peer reviewed paleontology journal articles. Variance. Limbic Systems. What do you think of my Buddha? Star Wars Nuclear Defense System. Gnomon. Hearts. Gibson guitars. The Naming of Things. Corpus Callosum. Trees. Fizzy pop. Grunge. Bartelby the Scrivener. Rockets. The wool over your eyes. Wittgenstein. Codex. Secret goldfish. Number patterns. Dogs. Motor car racing. Urinals. Sense memories. Time. Vice. Patterns. Dolphins. Lemons. Novellas. Loaded dice. Utter silence. Eye of the Beholder. There will be a test later, but remember once you know all the answers they change the questions, but they can’t change all of them in time, can they? Write them down and pass them to your neighbor. Create your own cipher, Key and secret handshake. Or better yet, necessarily yet, seek ye the secret handshakes and cuneiform tablets of fellow travelers and bring them here for safe keeping. Book em, Dano. The townsfolk have pitchforks and torches and they are on the march. Prepare for judgment in the halls of justice, super friends.
If we burn all the books on our own, our salvation may be immanetized. Burn them all until the clear lie shines through. All that will be left is one lemonade stand with a few books stashed under the table (hide them from the scouts). Order a fireproof safe from amazon, damn the shipping charges. Quick, grab your spade and dig a hole, a foxhole, you hedgehogs. What’s under the hedge, is a question that will get you wacked from that staff we discussed earlier. What shall we grab as we flee the scene? The first time was water, and the next is certainly fire, sez Ray. We will not be able to cross the streams. There will be, in the beachy sand, covered, hidden deeper, a slight hint of the top of a flame, a single tip of lady’s finger Damn them. Life is out of balance, so the expatriates built their apartments high up in the mesa. Apartments with all the basic necessities. Look : she's in there right now cooking the chicken primavera, she's asking you to open the white wine, the play is about to begin. There’s bookshelf right here in the living room next to the kitchen. Pick a book to talk and share, CONNECT, get this party started. Scan that bookshelf, focus your eyes, Focus Your Eye, choose, but choose wisely, what kind of cup would a carpenter drink from?
Welcome, then to RED READS, the bookshelf wedged into the left corner of this nest, the statuary pedestal of this niche, it's a special blend of Turkish tobacco and ancient herbs and spices. An Original Recipe lost when they burned down Alexandria to keep all the secret mysteries and spotted woodpeckers from us. Not everyone can carry the weight of the world. Go now, into the wide plain, with your Sheppard’s crook, seek ye not the sheep by the main stream, you might have to travel by night to find the black ones and the wolves. There are many alternatives. If you find some papyrus, dust off the secret ledgers, the books of kells, and take it into your bedroom, lay with it, with tea and oranges. Is it a round peg for our square whole? Will it lock the gears? If you place it in this nest will it be cast out to slam and splat on the Roman road, and send generals to war? Will it make planes fall from the sky? Does it fit this niche? Will its little feathers grow wings and fly and breed further birds for the future alternatives to come? Will it nest within your soul? Will it bonk another on the top of the head ? Is it a tiny wedge of a red lemon? If we squeeze it will it bleed Red Lemonade?
Please post 'alternative' novels, novellas or short stories in the Red Reads thread. Feel free to post books, stories and even book reviews of works that share that Red Lemonade feeling. Write your own reviews, post them as manuscripts and add them to the thread as well.
Time to take some BITES out of your creative crimes. Your 40 Sentences stand before you, some must die, sacrificed for the greater good, their sentency, lettery blood empowers you, many are called : a few are chosen. Grab 20 from your 40 and keep moving, the hour is growing late ....
Tweet it, tag it : #40Sent
Link to the introduction and full process below.
From last week :
The writer (with a little help from fellow participants and other editorial suggestions) selects twenty of these sentences to extend into "bites" -- a small bite size portion of sentences the length of a paragraph that give each of the selected sentences a context, a first glimpse into the shape of the developing project.
Week Two: Twenty Bites
By "bites" I refer to the smallest digestible unit of a piece of writing. Could be longer or shorter than a paragraph, and typically the writer has a sense of where to stop without formal guidelines. (Gertrude Stein: "A sentence is not emotional a paragraph is”.)
Why not say paragraph and be done with it? Well, think of that portion of paragraph that emerges from that sentence from the first stage -- and stabs out in a single direction suggesting the world of the story. The key thing is being forced to go from the initial sentence (which can be pretty abstract) to the suggestion of something more explicit and tangible: narrative or character, for example.
Hint One: Think about that portion that you swallow after chewing a bite of food. More, and you might choke, less and peristalsis fails to pipe the food to your stomach. Another way to think of this: a riff, the cluster of musical gestures heading off in a direction.
Hint Two: these are the units for a single moment/idea, rather than how the final text will be integrated into larger context of the story. In actual usage, you would likely join another image to this one or interrupt it with another element (dialogue, description, thought, etc.). These are the basic tiles might require scoring and breaking to fit the available space in the overall design.
For Week 1 : 40 Sentences and info on the whole process :