Monday, June 13, 2011

Calliope Nerve Interview Series: Kyle Muntz

Kyle, how did you become an author at such a young age?  How long have you been writing?

I started writing when I was really young—I’m not quite sure of the exact number anymore, but I’m pretty sure it was somewhere around 14 or 15. The first three novels I wrote were really terrible, and then after that something just sort of clicked, and suddenly, after a little while, I was able to reread my work without cringing. I’m really glad I was able to reach the point, or I never would have been able to begin submitting anywhere.

Tell us about your book "Voices."  Why did you write it?

I went into Voices intending to write something completely unpublishable—to a pursue a certain experimental strain that had been appearing in my writing up until that time as far I could. A lot of things that I was feeling and thinking around that point ended up becoming really apparent, personally and emotionally—and then, on the intellectual side, the novel was built around concepts drawn from semiotics, existentialism, and poststructualism, then put together sort of like science fiction. Even though on it’s very much a “formless” book and one reliant on concepts drawn from philosophy, I was hoping to create something with narrative drive and real emotional intensity, as opposed to the “cold formalism” associated with experimental fiction. I couldn’t believe it initially when Crossing Chaos excepted the manuscript, but I’m really glad they decided to take the chance.

And you have a new book out, "Sunshine in the Valley."  Tell us about it.  Why is it important?

Sunshine in the Valley was one of the books I’ve I always wanted to write, though I’m not sure if I knew it at the time. On the surface it looks less experimental than Voices, but I think it’s more conceptually sophisticated and polished stylistically, and also has extremely prominent elements of “plot” in the most complex sense. I’ve always thought the move away from narrative is sort of a mistake. People have been taking the novel apart for over 70 years, but I think we’re at the point now where we can begin putting it back together, or hopefully give it a try, at least.

The novel itself is about a village surrounded by living walls situated somewhere in what might be the impossibly distant future. The approach I ended up taking was something like fantasy with heavy elements of mythology, and then building from that to take the novel in as many directions as possible. It’s not at all a “genre” piece, though it uses a lot of elements traditionally associated with genre fiction. I had hoped the experience would be really surreal and elaborate, and also engaging like a traditional novel, but in a very different way. I’m really interested to see how people will respond to it since for the most part it’s very different from Voices (and also from everything I’ve done since).

Do you consider yourself prolific?

To a certain degree, though there are a lot of people who write much faster than I do. I generally complete one or two novels a year, though most of the really early ones I’m not interested in publishing. The compulsion to write is always there, but I’ll generally take a few months or so off between each novel, with the goal of being someone completely different before I try something else.

You've been labeled as avante-garde.  Is that a fitting expression for your body of work?

To an extent. I have two novels—Voices, and another unpublished one called Green Lights/Purity of Vision—that fit more firmly in the territory of the avant-garde. Other than that, I like to think of myself as incorporating elements of the avant-garde into a kind of hybrid form. Since the subject matter changes a lot from book to book, recently I’ve felt compelled to move more towards something a little different, since I noticed I was sort of writing myself into a corner, but there’s always an influence from the avant-garde in all my writing, because that’s usually the type of material I enjoy reading the most.

Who/what influences you?

I have a list of absolute favorites authors whose influence, I think, is apparent in lots of my writing—Samuel Delany, Haruki Murakami, Borges, Gene Wolfe, Thomas Pynchon—and then in general, I’m usually heavily influenced by anything I read or watch. My writing is generally very separate from who I am as a person, particularly the narrators themselves, so I draw less from my day to day experience than certain permutations of images/ideas/themes that I encounter in other people’s work.

What's on your recommended reading list?

“Sayonara Gansters,” by Genichiro Takahashi, is possibly the best thing I’ve read in the last few years. A few more exceptional titles would be “Apostrophe/Parenthesis,” by Frederick Mark Kramer and “The Zoo Where We Are Fed to God”, by Michael Ventura. I’m also really looking forward to “The Day We Delay,” by Michael J. Seidlinger, and “The Infinite Library,” by Kane X. Faucher, though in the interest of honesty, both of these guys are friends and label-mates of mine, so I’m fairly biased….

Believe in writer's block?

Definitely. I seem to get it all the time, usually when I’m somewhere around 2/3rds of the way through a piece. It sucks, but it generally goes away. The thing I’m most of afraid of, I think, would be a time when it doesn’t….

Define success.

“Success”—a shapeless, insubstantial thing that exists only in the imagination.

Listen to music while you create?  Who?

I used to listen to music all the time, but a little less now. Some mainstays are Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Maudlin of the Well, and then ambient music in general. Not so much anymore, though. The “silence” of writing is something I’ve really begun to get in touch with, recently.

Do you have a "creative ritual" before or while you write?

Coffee, or something else with lots of caffeine in it. I usually try my best to look for the impulse behind writing in myself. Most of the time I find it. Those are the good days.

What does the future hold for Kyle Muntz?

I’ve got another novel coming out next year, VII (or) The Life, Times and Tragedy of Sir Edward William Locke the Third: Gentleman, which is actually a historical novel (of sorts), and very, very different from anything I’ve released so far. When I originally came up with the concept, I envisioned the coming together—in a very abstract sense—of the elements I enjoyed from Artaud, Nabokov, Borges, and maybe John Barth. It’s sort of a mix of classical surrealism and the theatrical avant-garde with metafictional overtones and even a hint of fantasy. It’s also very much an “evil” novel, as distinguished from everything else I’ve done, much darker and with heavier polemical overtones.

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