Joe Giambrone interviewed by Anthony Avina.
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
JG: In high school I finally dove into rock and roll. I began playing guitar, singing, and I wrote countless lyrics, as well as band names. Not sure if any of the songs live on in any form, but that’s where I concentrated my words. I hear rhythms, melodies, harmonies in my mind once I get ramped up, and so it’s basically a matter of trying to capture on paper what I’m already hearing.
I next wanted to understand my own brain. So I began a massive research project on psychology, philosophy, the theory of Primal Pain, and evolution. The book wound up more plagiarized than original, and so I eventually scrapped it. But I learned a lot.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
JG: Wrecking Balls–and thanks for reviewing it–was a labor of love, the love of stand-up comedy. I’ve always been a stand-up fan. That’s where the artist has zero oversight, zero distance from the listener. It’s raw, uncensored, unfiltered, verbal mayhem, or whatever. I tend to appreciate the mayhem side of it, as if that wasn’t clear from the text. It’s one of the last places you can still push boundaries in the arts, without it devolving into straight political propaganda. My heroes were people like George Carlin and Bill Hicks. They could deliver the death blow without flinching AND it was funny.
There’s actually more to my motivation than all that. My personal life took a turn for the worse, and I needed to laugh. Originally, I was to follow up my YA science fiction thriller (Transfixion) with a superhero story (Demigods), also aimed somewhat at younger readers. I just wasn’t writing it, wasn’t feeling it. So, I watched every stand-up routine and documentary that Youtube had to offer that year, instead of writing. The motivation had left me. I wanted something adult, raw, full of obscenities and pushing people’s buttons; I mean, those are the kinds of books I want to read: Hunter S. Thompson for example. I prefer the ravings of an author who does not give a fuck what you think, and he’s going to say what he needs to say, without you even as an afterthought. That’s sort of the diametrical opposite of today’s “market.”
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
JG: The Wrecking Balls story evolved quite a bit from its initial inspiration. I knew it was a buddy comedy, something there seems to be no genre category for in literature but is a staple in movies. Odd. So it’s about the limits of friendship, the boundaries, the lines that should not be crossed. Once I accepted that as the premise, it was natural to pluck a bunch of related scenes. These guys are not heroes, and they shouldn’t be shoehorned into appearing like heroes. That’s not real life. They’re both jerks at times. This is more realistic than fantastical. I was almost convinced it actually happened, because it could have happened, or something quite similar.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
JG: I’ve always loved comedy, provocative comedy not slapstick. It’s an opportunity to ram a banana into someone’s brain. When it works it’s glorious. When it bombs it’s universally painful. The highs are higher and the lows lower. As the old saying goes, “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.” It is hard, and so it is quite a challenge to take on. You know you’re not going to please everyone, but the few you do will probably be fans.
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
JG: Ignoring how hot Amanda Winters is, and that I fall madly in love with female comics all the time… that’s a tough one. I’d probably ask Amanda all the cliché, usual, boy questions about life on the road as a woman in stand-up comedy. They hate that, by the way. Don’t do it.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
JG: I suppose Facebook, numerically speaking. I like the formatting options of WordPress better.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
JG: Write so many stories that you can do whatever you want, because there are another dozen waiting to go. That’s liberating. Don’t let perceived rules dictate content for you.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
JG: I may be directing and producing a vampire film at the end of the year. The script is just about done, and my lead actress has potential.
It’s a mad plan but a hell of a lot more feasible than just a few years ago. A strong spine to the story, it’s a movie I very much want to see. Someday, if you click past a no-budget indie horror film called Peculiar Blood, rent it.
Joe Giambrone interviewed at Kelly Smith Reviews.
KS: When/why did you decide to become a writer?
JG: Well, in high school I wrote so many songs/poems that I really thought I was on the path. A friend of mine introduced me to the guitar at 16, and my eyes opened to the world’s possibilities. It wasn’t until a college literature course, at my engineering school, that I wrote my first novella. That was a futuristic sci-fi tale about assassinating a certain leader with a tiny flying drone, the size of a quarter. This was 1985 or 6.
KS: What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today
JG: I always go back to Kurt Vonnegut for a slap in the face and a re-sorting of reality. Philip K. Dick, of course. For a while I got in on the Lestat vampire kick, and Anne Rice was an inspiration. My first screenplay was a Rice style vampire flick. I discovered that I was more into imagery than language, and I really wanted to get into movies. Hunter S. Thompson kicked my neocortex around a bit too, crazy bastard.
Lately I’m drowning in so many kinds of everything I can’t remember the last novel I picked up (other than the three of my own I’m currently juggling).
KS: What was the inspiration behind your novel Transfixion?
JG: I have written about propaganda and war for many years. At the heart of Transfixion is a metaphor about war propaganda, mindless obedience and the demonization of official enemies.
KS: Will we ever find out how Kaylee and the others fared in the future?
JG: I’m sort of philosophically opposed to milking it. The real Kaylee story is the one already told here. If I were to revisit these situations, it would have to be a different character and storyline.
KS: Why did you write a book within a book with Ghostliest?
JG: Ahh. Good question. I feel it works on several levels. It distracts from the “reality,” the main Kaylee story sufficiently, and at the key opening moments, so that things happen in the background. This hopefully adds to the surprise and shock factor.
It also gave Kaylee an obsession, a compulsion that readers of these kinds of novels will undoubtedly notice. So there’s maybe a tiny bit of pandering. Plus, there are practical survival tips to be found in literature, which she uses.
Some reviewers absolutely loved that subplot with the ghost hunters. It opened up another unanswered question: what will happen to the two? Believe me, I had no idea when I first started writing it.
KS: Were any of the characters’ personalities or emotions taken from real life?
KS: What other genres would you like to try your hand at?
JG: I’ve written twenty-six or seven full-length screenplays over a couple of decades. Add that many short film scripts. So I have material across numerous genres, but usually I blend genres and I do anything I can to avoid formulas.
What I don’t like are gory, sadistic horror or sweaty grinding romance. Other than that, I’m pretty open.
KS: What would you do if what you wrote ever came to fruition?
JG: You mean the hypnosis weapon? I wrote another piece with a more likely hypnosis scenario. It would work a bit differently, and I probably shouldn’t say any more :)
KS: Was there any intended symbolism behind the way the dupes were made, and that a teen bibliophile (the main demographic behind KSR) was the heroine?
JG: Definitely. It’s about an awakening from childhood to adulthood, but to what? To war, to the realities of war as opposed to fictional escapism. Wars are raging now, and this may be a perpetual state. The first casualty in every war is, of course, the truth.
In the novel the hypnosis is delivered via television, the main medium of propagandizing in our society today. The Internet is catching up, and these screens mostly emit one-way broadcast messages.
But are these messages true?
And how does it change us if we believe them vs. if we reject them as false? Personally and socially there are consequences as we face the world’s propaganda streams and try and sort through them. Are we then potentially two very different people?
By unquestioningly accepting someone else’s framing of sides, of enemies, and of conflicts, do we cede control to them, like a dupe?
KS: You said you want to see Transfixion as a film. Who do you want to see play your characters?
JG: Well, the writer has less clout in Hollywood than the caterer’s girlfriend.
But I recently saw a short film with a wonderful Australian actress in a similar role. She was mute and highly intense. Perhaps people would want to check out a vimeo short called Yardbird. Not that she’s the one, but that’s exactly the kind of performance I would love to see.
I’m not familiar enough with the up and coming Hollywood brats today to even name names.
KS: Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
JG: I have a few more novels picked out, and I’ll see where that heads. I’m also back in school, if you can believe that.
KS: What would you be doing if you weren’t writing?
JG: Never occurred to me, since there’s little to stop one from writing. I guess I’d be in a coma of some sort.
KS: Can you tell KSR what you’re working on next?
JG: I created a poll on my website to ask the people what kind of story they’d prefer to read. I posted 5 concepts, and they ranked them for me.
So superheroes it is. The story is a bit political. It’s about power, the will to power, who has it and who doesn’t. It’s the perfect arena for a supernatural battle.
KS: What authors, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?
JG: Kurt Vonnegut of course. I’d love to write the screenplay and direct Sirens of Titan. In a perfect world.
KS: Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
JG: 1. I’m legally blind.
2. I live in Redding California, a small city with rednecks and country music, homelessness, hipsters, black, white, brown and red. And a lot of trash strewn along the side of the road which I’d like to lodge a formal complaint about.
3. I have a backyard full of various type chickens and quail for some reason that you’ll have to ask my wife to explain. There are fresh eggs, of course, but: why so many, Kirsten? Why?