Julius M. Henry.
Daulton Dickey is a nobody. No one’s interested in him. Yet he runs around the Internet begging for attention and whinging about how no one will publish his artsy-fartsy novels. In a blatant and unapologetic act of theft, I’ve decided to ripoff Kurt Vonnegut’s interview from the Paris Review and track down Daulton—spoiler: he wasn’t hard to find—to ask him questions about life, writing, philosophy, and whatever else popped into my head. Knowing Daulton, I expect pretentious answers. And bullshit—spoiler: he’s an asshole.
Daulton Dickey [DD]: So. Here we are.
Daulton Dickey [Dd]: Indeed.
DD: I wanted to start by filling the audience in on a few things.
Dd: What audience?
DD: The audience reading this.
Dd: Are you high? No one reads this.
DD: This blog has had over 18,000 views.
Dd: Maybe so, but no one’s going to read this twaddle.
DD: Let’s agree to disagree. [Pause.] Now why don’t we start by telling the audience a little something about you?
Art is an activity—by that I mean the activity of creation. The artist is a person engaged in the activity—in the moment of creation. We can only qualify the object itself—whether it’s a story or a poem, a sculpture or a painting or a film, etc.—as art while it is in the process of being created.
Before it is created, an object of art is mere fantasy; the artist, a thinker; the activity, an abstraction. After it is created, an object is a commodity; the artist, a bullshitter; the activity, a memory.
To those who are passive in the arts—i.e., the viewers or readers, etc.—the activity is the intention; the object, an ambiguity, something open to interpretation; the artist, a craftsman.
The act of creation—active—and the act of interpretation—passive—are distinct acts. Any theory of art that doesn’t take the distinction between the active and the passive into account is an incomplete theory.
Selling books is a Sisyphean task. Without a budget, without a name anyone knows or cares about, or cares to know, you’re certain to fail. Bereft of a marketing department at a major publisher, bereft of a publisher altogether, in fact, puts you in an interesting position. How do you get your book out there? People won’t read it if they don’t know it exists, and people won’t read it if they don’t feel compelled, in some way, to read it. So this is the question you must ask yourself as a self-published writer: how do you create awareness for your book? And—this is a two-parter—how do you inspire people to want to read it?
Imagine you’re a writer in Indiana trying to get noticed. You’ve written and published several books. Few people have read them. You ask yourself why. Why haven’t they read them? Have they browsed them online without finding anything to pique their interest or do they not know your books exist?
The former remains aloof, always a possibility. Bracketing it for a moment, you try to gauge awareness of your books. How many people know they exist? It’s an alarming question, alarming because you don’t know any metrics by which to answer the question.
In your limited experience, you’ve discovered one thing, a dirty little piece of trivia: a self-published writer is full-time marketer, and those who don’t practice and perfect the art of marketing will not succeed as a writer. It’s a sad state of affairs when a writer must set aside his or her craft in favor of creating an image and a brand, but such is the path you chose.
To create awareness of oneself is to open the possibility of inviting readers into your world, to coaxing them, to luring them, to seducing them. —But how do you create awareness, you might ask? —How do you introduce yourself to the world? How do you persuade them to try what you’re offering?
As a self-published author, I have failed in my endeavors. For several reasons. I don’t have a brand, I don’t have a consistent online persona, I don’t have money—and I don’t have loyal followers and readers. I have failed to penetrate the online world in a meaningful way. Continue reading
Setting aside debates about whether or not we as a species are hardwired with a predilection toward violence, we can at least agree that our species displays a knack for it. Point to any period in human history and you’ll highlight an age rife with violence. From the Sumerians to the Romans, from Christendom to America, our stories and cultures reflect, and even glorify, violence. As foundation myths—Romulus murdering Remus; Washington crossing the Delaware to slaughter sleeping enemies—entire cultures are predicated on romanticized violence. Yet violence is never romantic. Or noble. Imagine it not as an abstraction, as something others engage in, and imagine it as a thing-in-itself, as an action or activity injuring or ending the lives of living, breathing human beings, as a carnal act committed against sentient meat, and you’ll find nothing amusing or romantic about it.
Popular entertainment treats violence in a variety of ways, from the absurdity of cartoons such as Looney Tunes or B-movies to the unflinching realism of Cormac McCarthy novels, and our society seems to view it in its many varieties, not always as acts of brutality. As such, we Americans tend to treat violence with a sort of flippancy, occasionally calling for appalling acts against people or countries as politics by other means.
Bracketing causal speculation, some people live and dwell in violence—directly or indirectly, intentionally or inadvertently. Human civilization is a series of Möbius strips, sets within sets within sets. Some subcultures navigate broader social rules and norms while playing by different sets of rules altogether. These subcultures tend to epitomize violence as means to ends. The violence perpetrated by drug cartels is a prime example of this Möbius strip strip within a Möbius strip, where shadow laws and governments, of sorts, operate within broader society. These cartels reap violence on such massive scales that it’s hard to wrap our heads around. So many tens of thousands of people have been slaughtered that we’ve abstracted the violence—and we view these deaths as nothing more than numbers and statistics.
And we’re rarely afforded opportunities to humanize those caught in these traps. But by creating situations with seemingly-living characters, fiction can and does serve a purpose: it transforms statistics into shared experiences, allowing empathy to replace apathy or antipathy.
Zero Saints (Broken River Books), Gabino Iglesias’s unflinching portrayal of violence, revenge, and redemption is the kind of fiction that can illuminate the toll violence takes in the real world.
Fernando is a small-time drug dealer in Texas. Having fled the chaos of the Mexican cartel wars, and entered the states illegally, limiting his opportunities, he’s taken a job as a pusher for a dealer who’s carved out a decent territory in Austin. And he’s about to have a bad week. Continue reading