13 Questions with Mel Bosworth

by HST UK on January 29, 2012

Mel Bosworth is the two time Pushcart nominated author of the fiction chapbook When the Cats Razzed the Chickens (Folded Word Press, 2009) the novella Grease Stains, Kismet, and Maternal Wisdom (Brown Paper Publishing, 2010) and the novel Freight (Folded Word Press, 2011). His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in elimae, PANK, Per Contra, Wigleaf, BLIP Magazine, Annalemma, decomP, Dark Sky Magazine, > kill author, Emprise Review, and Night Train, among others.

Mel lives, breathes, writes, and works in western Massachusetts.

Mr Bosworth answered our 13 Q’s…

HST: Regarding ‘Grease Stains, Kismet, and Maternal Wisdom’ and ‘Freight,’ how important is it for a writer to have been in love, in order to write about love. For some reason your writing reminded me of the written work of Steve Martin, in that the characters were treated with respect and a certain kind of niceness. I don’t know, sometimes I read books and it appears the writer was hell bent on torturing their characters in order to exorcise their own deep rooted personal demons, why do you care about your characters?

I care about my characters because I usually like them and so I want them to win, though I go through sadistic streaks from time to time where I torture my characters, for sure. Depends on my mood, what I’m looking to achieve. The protags in ‘Grease Stains’ and ‘Freight’ took their lumps in love, but they’re optimistic in the end, even if a bit sad, which is the best you can hope for, I think. And being in love as a writer, or being in hate, or experiencing anything, any emotion, well, if you want the writing to have any depth or real honesty to it, it helps to keep your senses and your emotions open before, during, and after any and all actions, experiences. We’re all pathological liars, too, and some people can convincingly write about emotions they’ve never really experienced, although all we really need to experience is one, one single emotion, and the rest will bounce off of that. So I guess being born and then growing angry that you’re alive is really all you need as a writer to convey the bouquet. But it’s good to experience love, some way, somehow, at some point, whether you’re a writer or not.

HST: I’m curious as to how you formulate ideas away from the pen or the keyboard. Are you the kind of writer who grabs inspiration from everyday situations you encounter, do your characters come to life as exaggerations of those people who you pass by on the street?

My writing comes from my everyday, yes. My characters, too. The best source of inspiration, I think, is motion, moving from one room to another, one breath to the next, one blink at a time. Minutiae shoulders planets.

HST: Whilst a writer can use the Internet for research, for instance familiarizing themselves with the prohibition era (first thing that popped into my head, I’m on a ‘Boardwalk Empire’ kick at the mo’) for the purpose of building a character’s back story; and also after publication to self-promote ‘the product’; but aside from that I wonder – Can the Internet also be a writers biggest enemy in the age of distraction, preventing productivity, ruining focus?

For me, it sometimes can be. I recently purchased a bit of software that blocks my internet connection for however long I’d like. And it’s great. Because a lot of the time, like right now, I’ll be working here with a few files open, but all it takes is that little click on my internet browser and I’m gone and the work is forgotten, which can be good because breaks are good, but unplanned, foolish breaks are nothing more than time and productivity killers. And I recently finished a True Blood marathon, seasons one through three. Waiting for season four to hit the interweb now. It’s fun. I’d like to check out Boardwalk Empire, too.

HST: Twitter has been around since 2006, but only in the last couple of years is it beginning to ‘trend.’ What do you make of Twitter’s effect on Poetry, creating these flash or micro poems that fit within the confines of 140 characters? With Flash Fiction proving popular over at least the last decade, but surprisingly not producing anything of impact, is minimalism failing to connect to a significant audience?

I don’t think it’s failing to connect at all, and I also think flash has been around longer than we think. The term may have originated in 1992. Anything less than 1000 words often falls into the ‘flash’ category, and there have been plenty of notable practitioners—Hemingway, Chekov, Kafka, Lovecraft, to name just a few. There’s a great indie press called Rose Metal, and they produce some outstanding work. There’s a collection of flash called ‘They Could No Longer Contain Themselves’ that Rose Metal put out this past year, and if you’re looking for flash with impact, look no further. The short form has been around forever, and Twitter, I think, helps to keep the form vital, relevant.

HST: I sometimes look back at my early writing history, and think about some of the early chapbooks that got released, and ‘publication’ credits I received by having my work featured on various webzines, I look back with a mix of regret, and frustration that I submitted work before I was perhaps ready. This in a sense stunted my development as a writer as I received rather too many pats on the back, when I could have done with a few sharp jabs to the jaw, do you sometimes regret submissions you’ve sent early in your writing career, or do you believe that it has been a worthwhile experience in establishing who you are today as a writer?

I think everything is important, everything brings you to where you are this very moment, so it’s hard to discount things, and regrets often aren’t worth having. But I know what you mean; I know where you’re coming from. When I began submitting work years ago, I was thrilled like a lot of folks are with the speed and immediacy of the internet. There’s a million online journals out there starving for content, so yes, a lot of mediocre and even bad work will get published online. And in the grand scheme of things, in a writer’s life, that’s okay. It’s all a learning experience, and in your heart and guts you know what your best writing is and you know what’s not. The sharp jabs to the jaw come sooner or later, especially once you start aiming higher, so I think it all works itself out in the end. I certainly chuckle at some of my early publications, but I don’t regret a thing. Shots of encouragement are always welcome, regardless of a journal’s popularity or visibility.

HST: In the past you’ve said that a novella is a concentrated novel. Whilst I subscribe to that view, for me it appears more like running a half-marathon before you take on a marathon; and that novella’s are often merely a writer testing themselves before they sit down and make a big commitment to finish the novel. What appeals to you as a reader about novellas?

Novellas are often short, fast, and fun. Something you can eat in one sitting. That’s the appeal to me. It’s a fantastic appetizer, for sure, the fried calamari after the bread & butter of short stories. The big meal will always be the novel, but the stuff to get you ready for the big meal is often just as tasty and just as important.

HST: Talk to us about Folded Word Press, what has it been like to work with them, especially given that ‘Freight’ was the first novel that they had published?

Folded Word is great. They take their time, and they love every word they publish. And it really shows. I was lucky to bump into them early on in both my writing career and their publishing career, and we’ve grown together. They gave me my first chapbook and my first novel. They have an amazing staff, and an attention to detail that is just mind blowing to me. They love to work. It was an honor to write the first novel they published.

HST: ‘Freight’ has been referred to as both an experimental novel and one full of complexities. Was it an intention of yours to make it unorthodox in style, or did this come naturally from attempting to assimilate various ideas together?

The process of writing ‘Freight’ was an organic one, and as it began to take shape I could see the opportunities to connect things together throughout the book. It has subtle interior structure not unlike hypertext online, and the way the book is designed it’s very unobtrusive, and the reader can make up his/her mind on how they want to experience the book. The response has been very positive so far and that makes me smile. I’m very lucky, though I’m sure some folks won’t dig it, but that’s just the way it goes.

HST: How laborious is the draft process, making the story fit for the reader’s eyes. Aside from editors you might work with, do you have other confidants that you use to get a second opinion on your work?

For my longer pieces, and certainly for ‘Freight,’ the draft process was pretty intensive and time consuming. I walked away from things for good stretches and came back fresh. It’s crucial to walk away; otherwise you can break your brain. I’ve always worked with great editors, and I do have a couple of confidants who lend me their eyes and advice. Writing is a solo endeavor, but it’s also a team effort in many ways. Paradoxes abound in all things.

HST: You’ve twice been Pushcart nominated, I’m wondering about your thoughts on the Pushcart Prize, and what kind sway it holds within the small press community?

The Pushcart nominations don’t mean much in the small press community. So many writers have been nominated for so many things it’s all just…I don’t know. It’s nice to be nominated for something. And it’s encouraging when it happens. I decided to slap it into my bio for a couple of reasons: 1) I think it looks good and it impresses my non-writer friends and family even if it doesn’t mean a whole lot, and 2) it’s a good reminder, for me, that during my writing career someone thought enough of my work to nominate it for a cool prize. But yeah, the nominations themselves hold no sway whatsoever. When I win one, then the sway might sway a bit, as sway does.

HST: You continue to read other writer’s works on your YouTube channel. Do you think writers and editors have used YouTube to its full capability, given how it can be a great tool, especially when compared to musicians and filmmakers who have forged whole careers from a well-directed uploaded video?

I think book trailers are getting better and more entertaining. Dark Sky Books has great trailers for their books, and there are lots of individual authors who make good trailers, too. I don’t think writers & editors have squeezed YouTube as hard as they can yet, but people are messing around and having fun. The internet is a big playground.

HST: Music is obviously important to you, and I note on your website that PJ Harvey’s album ‘Let England Shake’ was one of your highlights of 2011. How does the album stand for you as a piece of current cultural commentary?

I came late to that PJ Harvey album, but it filled my ears for the last two months of 2011. She’s got a great and tender harshness to her, and every song is different and amazing. As a piece of current cultural commentary, the album feels like a challenge to war and violence, and while that may never be new it’ll always be important.

HST: Lastly, moving off topic – I know you are a Basketball nut. What did you make of the lockout, and what players decided to do in their downtime; is the NBA brand on shaky ground?

I am so disappointed in the NBA this season. It makes me sad and angry. Greedy owners, greedy players, and they ruined it for the fans. I’m kind of boycotting the NBA this season because I don’t consider it a season. It’s a sham, and I’m not thankful for it. That being said, go Celtics and go Oklahoma City.


If you are interested in answering HST’s 13 Questions then email us: aprilmaymarch777@yahoo.co.uk

Previous post:

Next post: