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Thread: AW's Day of Listening - Interviews Thread

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  1. #12
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    May 2005
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    Interview with jcomp:


    Where were you born/did you grow up?

    I was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, then lived in Hawaii until I was 5-years-old (I remember next to nothing of the island, unfortunately) but I “grew up” in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.


    Are you still living there, if not, what circumstances moved you away?


    Now I’m back in Texas. San Antonio. My folks were in the Air Force so we moved relatively often. I’m one of the military brats who managed to never leave the states, though. My dad was sent overseas often, while my mom was stationed in the states, so I spent most of my childhood with her. The Air Force finally linked my mom & pops together again when we got to San Antonio, around my sophomore year of high school.

    Beside your parents, who was/were the most influential person(s) of your childhood? What did you learn most from him/her/them? The most influential person you’ve known as an adult?

    Great question. Thinking… thinking. From my childhood it’s very hard to say. I don’t know if any specific person really influenced me when I was that young. It was just a combination of family, immediate and extended. I always felt like I was sort of on the outside looking in to an extent when I was a kid, and kept a lot of it to myself. Not that anyone really made me feel that way, I was a just a quirky, slightly awkward little dude who couldn’t quite figure out why I was such a square. I’m still not sure why I’m such a square, but I’ve got a much better handle on it now.
    Honorable mention to my 5th grade teacher Sister Gayle and my 11th & 12th grade English teacher Mr. Comer for encouraging me and helping me with my writing.
    As far as my adolescence / adulthood, my biggest influences are probably my oldest brother and my grandfather. During my teenage years I unconsciously started behaving a bit like my oldest brother, adopting some his mannerisms in a desperate bid to find my cool before I figured out that everybody has their own cool, you can’t steal somebody else’s--to do so in fact is anti-cool.

    Nonetheless, I got to see him raise his kids and grow with his wife and find is spirituality right before my eyes. He never preaches or anything, he just sets the example, and the circumstances surrounding his childhood with my other two brothers (also older than me) forced him to step into a leadership role and gave him perspective on things he never lost. I’m still trying to be like him in a lot of ways.
    I definitely get my corny sense of humor from him. My grandfather, likewise, helped mold me. I lived with my grandparents one year --freshman year of high school--while both of my parents were stationed elsewhere. The man literally built his own business. Raised four great, successful kids, putting three through college (the fourth elected a different route, but she’s doing good for herself nonetheless).
    He helped me get through my awkwardness a lot that year and was way more understanding than I imagined he could be. You know, he’s an old school guy, hard worker, hard disciplinarian, but there were some major screw ups I had when I lived with him and he never lost his cool. I know I must’ve frustrated the hell out of him some times, and there were some absolutely idiotic things I did that fully warranted getting the whole damn bookshelf thrown at me, but he just took the opportunity to teach me about life and accountability. He’s a great man. I also learned how to tell a story and hold a conversation by listening to him. When he’s “on” he can entertain anybody.

    Can you name, describe one decisive moment in your youth, one that changed the course of your life, either in a physical, mental or a philosophical sense? Or, is there an experience you had as a youth which lives on in your memory, influencing your life now in either a positive or negative sense?

    I’m going to go with two, and both seem fairly trivial and / or superficial and / or after-school-special-ish, but they still sort of follow me around. When I was in kindergarten I went to a daycare that some older grade school kids would also come to afterschool until their parents got off work to pick them up. One day some of the older girls got the kindergarteners together to basically have an impromptu spelling / English lesson. The girls would write the word on the chalkboard and we’d have to say it out loud. They made it a sort of contest, going around the room with each kid guessing the word on the board until they got it right. And I blew everyone else out of the water. Wasn’t even close. Soon I was basically competing with myself, no one else even wanted to try to answer anymore, and these older girls are up there by the blackboard making a big deal in front of everyone about how smart I am, and gradually I begin to realize that this is just going to keep on and on until I miss one of these words. I also began to notice that the kids my age were giving me looks like I was some sort of alien. The word I missed was “maroon.” I remember knowing how it was supposed to be pronounced and then intentionally mispronouncing it (as “marine”) so I could be free of the dirty looks. That marked the first time I ever really felt smart, and the first time I ever felt like being the smartest cat in the room wasn’t really a good thing, and I still occasionally have trouble with that. The second moment was orientation day at my new high school in ninth grade. I’d spent 8 years in Mississippi basically being king of the nerds, with 7th and 8th grade being especially nerd-tastic. So then I moved to the pretty small town of Belton, Texas to live with my grandparents. Freshman Orientation day came and I went to school with the plan to make myself as invisible as possible and just try to get through the day without revealing myself as a mega-geek to be ostracized by even the normal geeks. What I failed to realize was that I was the new guy in a place where new guys were pretty rare, and since I didn’t dress like a stereotypical nerd I was not immediately identified as such. In fact, wonder of wonders, a few girls actually took the initiative to introduce themselves to me. Seemed interested in me. We went to a water park after orientation and there were girls talking to me and asking me about where I was from and if I thought they were cute and what I was going to be doing later, maybe I wanted to hang out. It blew my mind. I assure you I am not engaging in arbitrary self-deprecation here. At that point in my life I had basically resigned myself to being shunned (and occassionally punched) by most of my male peers and found unattractive by my female peers. Of course, being a nerd at heart, I managed to undo my brief popularity at the school within a couple of months, but that was the first time in my life I ever felt anything close to confidence in myself. Since then I’ve developed a borderline-arrogant persona as a sort of backlash against my insecurity, and somehow the two identities converge to create someone who I hope is a pretty decent guy.

    Describe the street you live in, the view from your bedroom/living room window, or the route you take to work each day!
    I wish I had something interesting to say about any of the above. My street isn’t too busy or too quiet. It gets its share of traffic, has its share of stores and restaurants flanking it, and has inconvenient, seemingly unnecessary construction that’s made almost no progress for months at one end of it, adding another 10 minutes to my morning commute. Standard stuff in my city, unfortunately.
    From my bedroom or living room window I can see the apartment complex next door to my own, and a Time Warner Cable billboard asking “Why is AT&T Afraid of Our Rates?”
    My route to work each day usually consists of me taking a side street in a hopeless attempt to dodge traffic, eventually making it to the highway, then sailing on in to work. If I get up early enough it’s not so bad. On the way I almost always stop at the gas station near my apartment to buy an energy drink to kick-start my day. Horrible habit, that stuff is terrible for you, but if I don’t do that I’m sluggish clean through lunch…


    Describe the room you are sitting in right now!


    Quick side note: I initially read the above statement as having an urgency I’m sure wasn’t intended. “Right now! The clock is ticking! Cut the blue wire!” My living room is pretty basic. I wish it was bit jazzier, but alas it’s ordinary. White walls, off-white carpet. No pictures or paintings on the walls… I need to rectify that. A chair, a futon, a television sitting on a white stand with my DVD player and Xbox underneath it. Wall unit in the corner that acts as a bookshelf and also has two compartments where I keep my DVD’s (kept in alphabetical order, divided by genre, and woe betide anyone who disturbs that order). Computer sitting at my desk with paperwork embarrassingly disorganized at the present. 7. Referring to questions 5 and 6: do you see yourself in this same place in two/five/ten years time? Lord, I hope not. I’d like to be out of the city within two years. San Antonio’s not bad at all, I hate to give the impression that I’m denigrating the city. I just want to be someplace a little more exciting, a little more fun, a little less sweltering. Still not quite sure where I see myself just yet, but I’ve got a few cities that I’m looking into visiting pretty soon to try out.

    What was your education? What do you do for a living? Do you enjoy your work? I went to college for a year, screwed around and wasted my opportunity. I keep telling myself I’ll go back “next year,” then next year comes and I’m conspicuously absent from any classes.
    Right now I work as a Business Analyst for a web development company. Do I enjoy my work? Eh. Somewhere within me there’s some-damn-goofy-thing that can’t fully abide taking orders from any grown man who isn’t my father or grandfather, and I’m also constantly uncomfortable with the idea of my means of income and therefore my present and future not being entirely within my own control.
    That said, I’m definitely grateful for the gig. Times are getting hard out there and I’ve got a pretty good job, so I can’t complain. I’ve learned a lot about web design on this job and I’m working toward building sites for people on the side and seeing where that takes me.

    What is the quality or qualities you value most in a life partner? Is there such a person in your life right now?

    So… recently I actually put together a list of qualities I’m looking for in a life partner, at the behest of sister-in-law, who is also my unofficial psychotherapist. Here are the barest essentials:
    Intelligent
    Kind / Considerate
    Ambitious
    Attractive
    Appropriately Into Me
    That last one, the way I see it, it’s always better to be wanted than needed. If someone gets too into you and feels like they “can’t live without you,” it strikes me as an affection that is almost fear-driven, instead of fully volunteered. I want someone to enjoy my company, not fret over losing me, you know?
    Right now, I’m still single & dating. I haven’t had a serious, exclusive girlfriend in two years now, and even that was something I rushed into. Ah well. I like to believe that my dream girl isn’t in San Antonio, and that’s yet another reason why I need to move away, but who knows. I might bump into her today, she might reveal herself as one of the young ladies I’m seeing now, we might spend our whole lives almost crossing paths but never actually meeting each other. For now, at least, just the idea of all the different possibilities is part of the fun of being single.

    How and when did you know that you wanted to write fiction?

    Good question. Hard to say when I "knew." I always liked telling stories. I used to write these incomparably lousy short horror stories when I was in grade school. My friends would read them and since we were all a bunch of goofy kids who didn't know any better, we all thought it was sort of cool.

    Throughout high school I'd pen (equally dreadful) stories whenever I could for a writing assignment. In college I decided to write a screenplay and remained oblivious to the profound lack of improvement in my writing. Finally, when I wrote a story as an assignment for one of my professors, he gave me my first actual critique. My writing was too wordy, my tenses were time-traveling, my dialogue was an insult to language... but the plot was okay.

    I came away from that thinking, all right, so I have decent ideas, I just don't know what the hell I'm doing. That's about when I realize that I really wanted to pursue this, and also realized that I needed to take it more seriously then, and start learning how and how not to write.

    Is there any one book which inspired you, where you felt: that's what I want to do! or, I can do better?

    I've always been a bookworm, but I can't think of one book that stands out as inspiration. When I was young I was the nerd who looked forward to Book Fairs like they were extra Christmases. And I was always a sucker for horror stories even though they kept me sleepless. I'm guessing that something I read back then put the idea in my head that I could write my own stories, and it just gradually evolved from there.

    What stage are you at with your novel writing?

    Is "Should've Been Done Already" an official stage? If not, it needs to be...

    What is your genre? Which writers inspire you?

    I primarily write horror, though I've been exploring the world of crime-thrillers lately, and some part of me is a hopeless sucker for a good, mainstream story about love and relationships, so I've dabbled just a bit into that as well.

    The writers that inspire me: Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Robert McCammon, Ray Bradbury and Elmore Leonard. I've also been recently introduced to novels of Richard Price and immediately became a huge fan of his writing style.

    What is yor writing process? ie do you outliine, do you have regular hours of writing, are you disciplined? How much do you write each day?

    My process is to sit down and (ideally) write what comes. I have an outline in my mind, and started working with putting outlines on paper to give myself benchmarks, help monitor my progress, but that hasn't been as successful as I had hoped it would be.

    I'm disciplined about trying to write everyday. I'm terribly susceptible to overthinking, though, and some days I'm stuck staring at the screen, ideas bouncing in my brain, never making it to the page.

    I don't know really how much I write each day. I set a goal for two-thousand words that I haven't come close to reaching in months.

    What kind of success do you seek, fame, fortune, literary prizes?

    Would it be terrible of me to say all of the above?

    I always imagined that, if I'm fortunate enough to be blessed with the type of success I seek, one day some interview will inevitably ask the question, "Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you could accomplish all of this?"

    And I'll answer,"Well, yes, but in my wildest dreams I also had telekinetic powers. And drove the Batmobile." The interviewer will likely think I'm kidding, and I'll just go on letting him or her believe that...

    What woud you prefer to write, a flash-in-the-pan best-seller that vanishes after the first year but makes you a lot of money, or a slow but steady growth of readership, literary obscurity but posthumous fame?

    This is actually a really tough question. I can't lie, I'm rather fond of money. I realize that money can't buy happiness, but it can buy great food, a nice house and snazzy clothes, all things that I'm positive I would enjoy.

    That said, a very significant part of me cares about leaving a legacy. About being known, read, discussed and remembered well after I'm gone. Ego is a hell of a thing.

    Weighing each option, from a practical standpoint, I'd have to go with the money. What fades into obscurity but makes tons of money now vs. what stands the test of time but is largely overlooked when initially published, I don't write with one or the other in mind. I'm just writing the stories that pop into my head as well as I can. So the fate of my work is determined by the readers, and if it is money vs. a legacy, I'll choose the money and keep writing just because I love it--even if it turns out I'm not all that great at it--and search elsewhere for my legacy.

    What do you consider your writing strengths, writing weaknesses?

    Strengths, I'd go with dialogue (which used to be my biggest weakness) and ideas. I'll never have a problem with running out of ideas.

    My biggest weakness is patience and just getting the damn words written down. The latter affects the former. I spend so much time dissecting every little sentence and plot point, wondering what to do next, that I eventually get fed up and start rushing through a project, which leads to be less-than-stellar efforts.

    Your own character strengths, character weaknesses?


    Hmm... not really sure about strengths. Weaknesses, hell, more than I care to list. I can stand to improve (or in some cases, just find) my patience, focus, consideration, determination, humility... so many things.

    Strengths... I dunno. Lord knows I've got an ego and I'm not trying to be coy, but I think that if I list something as a strength it implies that it doesn't need to be worked on. Things I would have considered strengths two or three years ago are some of the things I'm working hardest on now, and even as far as weaknesses go, some of the steps I've taken to improve some of those things proved to be horrible decisions.

    All in all, you know, I'm still trying to get better at just being myself.
    Dogs, cats, both, neither, and why?

    Ah yes, the really, really big question. Not much of a cat or dog person, actually. I’m not against either one, but I just don’t see myself as much of a pet person. Although…
    I’ve always thought it would be cool to have a shark. A big one, like a sand-tiger. I don’t think I’d engage in much frivolous spending if I had CEO money, but I’d definitely splurge on a giant shark tank. Build it below my personal office, give the office a glass floor, invite my competitors over for “friendly negotiations” while Mr. Teeth McGillicutty swims underneath.
    That’s the dream, anyway…
    Thanks for interviewing me. I’m all sorts of flattered…
    Last edited by aruna; 12-14-2008 at 09:10 PM.
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