Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Brendan Connell.
Brendan Connell was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1970. He has had fiction published in numerous places, including McSweeney's, Adbusters, and the World Fantasy Award winning anthologies Leviathan 3 (The Ministry of Whimsy 2002), and Strange Tales (Tartarus Press 2003). His published books are: The Translation of Father Torturo (Prime Books, 2005), Dr. Black and the Guerrillia (Grafitisk Press, 2005), Metrophilias (Better Non Sequitur, 2010), Unpleasant Tales (Eibonvale Press, 2010), The Life of Polycrates and Other Stories for Antiquated Children (Chômu Press, 2011), The Architect (PS Publishing, 2012), Lives of Notorious Cooks (Chômu Press, 2012), Miss Homicide Plays the Flute (Eibonvale Press, 2013), The Cutest Girl in Class (co-written with Quentin S. Crisp and Justin Isis, Snuggly Books, 2013) and The Galaxy Club (Chômu Press, 2014).
Click here to visit the author's official website.
AN INTERVIEW WITH BRENDAN CONNELL
- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I am an American who was born in 1970, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My mother for a time worked for City Lights Books, in San Francisco. That was in the 60s and 70s. My father was an artist and also a writer. His father was a sports writer who also wrote political speeches for Southern politicians and also short stories a bit in the style of Faulkner. Later I lived for a long time in Switzerland, where my wife is from, but now I live in New Mexico again.
- How did you become an author? Have you always been interested in writing?
I read a lot as a child and young man. My first interest really was music, which I made a lot of, but I found that I had to compromise too much in music and it was expensive—instruments and all that sort of thing. I have never had much money. So writing was cheaper and I could then do things as I wished. Now though I am also writing some lyrics for a group from Serbia called Kodagain.
- You've written several speculative fiction stories. How did you become interested in speculative fiction?
I actually have never been especially interested in speculative fiction. I have read very little of it—at least in the sense of modern speculative fiction writers. I once read a book by Arthur C. Clarke. I only learned that there was such a thing as speculative fiction when I was maybe 30 or so. Before that I just thought that there was fiction and non-fiction and poetry. Of course I have read plenty of things with fantastic elements in them, but mostly they just happened to be that way—it was nothing I was searching out really. The main reason for me getting so many things published in that “genre” is that I was, when I was in my late 20s, writing a lot of short stories and trying to get them published. I was getting a few things accepted, but a very few. Then I looked in some sort of guide to writer’s markets and saw there were some horror magazines you could send stories to, so I quickly wrote a few horror stories and sold them with ease and I found that most of what I wrote in that style I could sell. But then I started sending material to these genre publications that was not really genre, and they would buy the stories I wrote even if they really were not the sort of thing they normally published. I suppose my books are just an extension of that. I don’t consider them speculative fiction, but I am happy if people who like speculative fiction like what I write.
- What are your favorite authors? Are there any specific authors you'd like to recommend to your readers?
My favorite fiction writer is probably Balzac. I also like Ponson du Terrail a lot. I recently read a book by David Rix called Feather that was very good. I can also recommend Justin Isis and Quentin S. Crisp without reservations.
- Your stories and novels are both genre-bending and experimental. What inspires you to write this kind of fiction? How do you come up with new ideas?
I basically write books that interest me. The experimental part, if there is one, is just an accident. I have no desire to write anything experimental. For the book to have the right feeling, certain moves are necessary, and these might come across as being experimental, but they are not. It is possible that some of these moves are innovative, but I think they are innovative in a very traditional way. The important thing is to fulfill an original vision and to have the book or story stir up certain feelings in the reader. Sometimes it is necessary to create a confusing atmosphere, and sometimes a calm one. Usually some familiar landmarks are necessary, but if the book is too familiar then it becomes uninteresting and leaves little room for imagination. Fantastical elements might be there, or they might not. I personally never see them as fantastical, because I only write about what I think actually exists. So if there is something that appears strange to people, it is certainly not planned that way.
As for coming up with new ideas—I usually walk and think, or stay up late and read and think. When an idea comes to me I jot it down and so I have lists of ideas. When it is time to write something I can go to the list. I have a list of books I would like to write.
- Your latest novel is The Galaxy Club (Chômu Press, February 2014). It's an intriguing combination of noir elements, mythology and speculative fiction. How did you come up with the idea of writing noir fiction?
I have wanted to write this sort of thing for a long time. But it is very difficult to do. It took a lot of thought. The difficult part about writing what might be called noir, at the present time, is to do so without falseness. So for me it was very important that if I were going to write something with noir elements in it that it be genuine. Growing up though, I saw a fair amount of crime and knew many interesting characters. So it was mainly about trying to write what I already knew without any affectation, or as little affectation as possible.
- You write about several characters in The Galaxy Club and tell the story through them. Was it challenging to build this kind of a complex narrative structure?
Not really. I was pretty clear in my head to begin with, so it wasn’t too hard. The trick with so many different characters is that each one needs a unique voice. So that part was important. That wasn’t difficult, but it did require a certain amount of openness. By openness I mean that one has to give oneself up to the characters and try to understand what it’s like to be them. It is no use having a large cast of characters if they are all basically the same. Each character needs their own angle.
- You've translated Guido Gozzano's short stories with Anna Connell (Requiems & Nightmares: Selected Short Fiction of Guido Gozzano, Hieroglyphic Press 2012). What inspired you to translate these stories?
Even in Italy, Gozzano is known almost exclusively as a poet. Most Italians are unaware that he wrote short stories. Outside of Italy, most people have not even heard of him. Yet he was a very fine writer of prose and a number of his short stories I believe to be amongst the best ever written in Italian. Daniel Corrick, the editor at Hieroglyphic Press, had read one of the stories that we translated and asked if Anna and I could do a whole volume, which of course we were happy to do.
- Are you planning on translating more similar kind of stories in the near future?
I would like to do more translations from the Italian, but it really depends on people wanting to publish what I want to translate. So, in the near future probably not. But the future, maybe. I have a few books in mind that I think are worth doing, it is just a matter of getting someone interested enough to actually want to back the projects.
- What are you currently working on?
Well, aside from finishing the last details on a few forthcoming books, I am finishing the sequel to The Translation of Father Torturo. Then I will write another noir type book, again set in New Mexico in the 70s.
- Is there anything you'd like to add?