29 August 2014

World Blog Tour: Isaac Boone Davis


Isaac Boone Davis (pictured here with what appears to be some species of Elvis) is a damn fine writer who is also blogless. Therefore, I am lending some of my Internet real estate to him so that he can join the World Blog Tour.

And now, Mr. Davis.

What are you working on?

    As much as I'm working on anything (which is to say not much) I'm playing around with a few stories that have some interest in becoming a novel. They are centered around life in eastern Kentucky; life in the coalfields after there are no more coalfields. This is not out of any great passion of mine for the material. It's just that I live there, currently. And I am a ridiculously non-creative person. I've discovered that writing about eastern Kentucky is a little like writing about Vietnam. Everyone is extremely possessive of their own particular experience and whatever your experience was there it better align with the people that matter. Lest you run the risk of being the subject of very angry blog posts where you will be accused of not "understanding the richness of the land, the struggle of the people, or simple dignity of the local cholesterol." My brother Willie has a hilarious phrase about this: Holler than thou. The other thing about the writing life in eastern Kentucky is that everyone here likes getting offended. They do it a lot. They have a great affinity for the word 'stereotype.' You would think it would be a cash crop or something. 

     Boy, that Vietnam metaphor did not hold up. 

    How does your work differ from others of its genre?

    It's worse. 

   I don't exactly know that I have any kind of genre. I've been pitching a collection to a few agencies that revolved around "the darker side of the working class experience." Strangely, that hasn't garnered much interest. Anything I've ever written tends to be ninety five percent autobiographical or biographical. Again, I have remarkably little imagination. I'm a bit of a method actor that way I guess.

     Why do you write what you do?

   When people would ask me this question before, I would say 'because I wanted to give voice to the voiceless.' I was a truly wretched person. I was like Bono if his entire audience consisted of his mom and some dude at The Review Review. I really think some of the instinct to create (whether its through writing, or music or making vintage birdhouses) is hardwired. Eventually,if it's in you, you just simply need to do it. 

 I wanted to record things that I've seen and stories that I've heard about happening to people that otherwise may not get told.Stuff, that maybe didn't happen to people every day or maybe in some ways were completely regular events for people, but not easily relatable. For example I knew this girl who would go down to the Federal prison on 200th Street in Sea-Tac, Washington. And she would dance for her guy who was locked up there. And I knew a guy who was locked up in Monroe who had this insane story about the day he got out of prison. So I sorta rubbed the two of them together and wrote a story about it. I knew this kid who was risking his life after work every day to buy crystal meth for his dying mom. So I wrote a story about it. I knew some girls who were homeless and stealing for a living. So I wrote a story about it. I knew a guy who had been sexually assaulted and when he would drink he wouldn't stop talking about it. And would sometimes get into fist fights with people who didn't want to hear about it anymore. I wrote it down. This stuff just seemed worth recounting even if it was ugly and awkward and painful as shit. I don't play guitar anymore. I can't paint or draw or design antique furniture. My singing voice has caused miscarriages in livestock. If I was going to record any of these things it was going to have to be by writing them down. 

    Explain your writing process

    It ain't much. I work all day and I'm pretty tired when I get home. I try hard to schedule some time for it on my days off and maybe another day or two during the week. I do agree that the best stories are the one's that you have written in your mind before you commit to paper. Going into a story without a roadmap is terrifying to me. There are ocean's smaller than my inner critic. If I don't know what I'm about to write I'll get confused or just ditch it. I have to know what I'm wanting to talk about. 
   There's a funny part of Mark Richard's autobiography House of Prayer Number Two where he is interviewing Tom Waits and he thinks he's going get drunk with Tom and watch him write Cold Water or something. But, it turns out Tom Waits doesn't want to drink (at least not that night.) And when asked about watching him write a song, he says "No. That would be like watching someone bathe." Most stories I write take a while for me to write. I average six pages probably a month. It's a lot of hunt and peck and a ton of re-writing. I read aloud a bunch to catch mistakes. When I think something is close I have a few writer friends who I have learned to trust over the years. I didn't go to college and I've never been to a writing conference in my life, so the internet has been a huge help in finding a writing community. My sole piece of journo-fiction, The Cherry Picker, would never have happened without the careful editing of Chris Miller, who is an enormous talent and exacting editor.He was like a personal trainer. Always ready to pick me up when I didn't want to keep going. Recently, I've learned to show my work to my fellow editors at Smokelong. People like Tara Laskowski and Gay Degnani and Ashley Inguanta. Smokelong does not mess around so I've learned to keep my ego in a box when I show them something. It reminds me of what Stefan Grossman said about taking guitar lessons from Gary Davis: there are no shortcuts. 

   The best story I can think of about writing process is Louise Erdich talking about how she writes when driving through the North Dakota. Literally, when driving. She keeps a journal in the passenger seat. Something about the idea of literature as a possible act of vehicular homicide. I mean why do it at all if it doesn't run the risk of killing somebody?

    So here's the links to a couple of my stories. If you want to check them out. 

  Journalism. Probably the only thing I've done that will ever take that much out of me.

Crappy job story. I'm addicted to reading them because I've had so many. I figured I could write one. Parts of it are sorta funny.   http://www.thebaconreview.com/featureone.php?id=45

 First story I ever finished/published. About a kid in Kentucky in a crappy little town who has tasked himself with killing his dying mom.   http://www.writethis.com/z03.html

  Flash fiction. Girls that live the hard way. Sleeping in abandoned buildings, stealing to eat. Hating themselves.