WELCOME CHRISTOPHER MEEKS
Christopher Meeks was born in Minnesota, earned degrees from the University of Denver and USC, and has lived in Los Angeles since 1977. He’s teaches English and creative writing at Santa Monica College, and has taught creative writing at CalArts, UCLA Extension, Art Center College of Design, and USC. His fiction has appeared often in Rosebud magazine as well as other literary journals, and his books have won several awards. His short works have been collected into two volumes, “The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea” and “Months and Seasons,” the latter which appeared on the long list for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He’s had three plays produced, and “Who Lives?: A Drama” is published. His focus is now on longer fiction. His first novel is “The Brightest Moon of the Century,” and his second, “Love At Absolute Zero.”
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Q&A with Christopher Meeks
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Truth springs from the personal. Other people’s stories that I’ve loved have felt naked and truthful, and their points thundered home. Perhaps I first saw that as a teenager reading the poetry of Richard Brautigan and then Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Even though both authors used humor, I felt their truths. As I writer, I needed to be the same. My short fiction was always based on personal experiences, and I aimed for emotional truth.
My first two novels, The Brightest Moon of the Century and Love at Absolute Zero revolved around situations I’d been in. One example is when I did everything I could to take my junior year abroad in Denmark to live with my Danish girlfriend. When I arrived, she was living with another guy. It seemed funny years later—just not at the time.
Once I ran out of major events in my life, I thought of things that could happen. Blood Drama is a “What if?” It came from my correcting student papers daily at a Starbucks in the lobby of a bank. The elegant and comfortable setting enveloped me, but then I thought, “This bank could be robbed. What if I were taken hostage?”
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
In writing short fiction, I never know where a story is going, but if I go off course, I’ve only lost ten or twenty pages at the most. A novel is different. You don’t want to write 300 pages of a novel and say, “Whoops. I took a wrong turn on page twenty,” and then throw out 280 pages. A novel takes planning.
What’s great is that thinking is far faster than writing. I see scenes in my mind in fast motion.
I start at the beginning but quickly consider what the arc of the story might be. Where will it go? Then I spend a lot of time considering all the possible steps. The great thing about this approach is an outline may be as little as a few pages. Once I have something down on paper in terms of structure, I can push things and consider other possibilities.
Plenty changes when I write, but an outline is not etched in copper. My outline changes as I write. When I take an interesting left turn, I return to the outline, imagining how this new event might change things down the line. If the change isn’t good, I don’t need to keep pursing it. If I like the new event, I change the outline so that I know where I’m now going.
Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
My idiosyncrasies have changed. Do you know the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut? In a future world, everyone is equal. To make that happen, really great dancers have to dance with lead weights attached so that they lumber like regular people; smart people have a little beep go off in their heads about every twenty seconds. The beep makes them forget their train of thought. Now I feel I’m in that world. My cellphone will vibrate or ring, and it instantly knocks off my train of thought. In fact, it’s ringing now…
I’m back. Where was I? Oh, right. My routine now is to NOT look at email the first thing in the morning, to NOT answer the phone necessarily when it rings. Staying focused is a challenge today for most people. It is for me. It takes focus to write. Now, late night and early morning are my best times. I usually aim for the latter.
Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?
I have a wonderful balance in my life. I teach creative writing and English, which helps force me to read. Each semester, I always teach new stories or books. I feel challenged and refreshed teaching new things. In my creative writing classes, I also offer new exercises in my continual search to find what inspires. The students’ writing and our discussions feed me.
In turn, as I write new stories, I can relate some of my challenges to their challenges. An interesting thing is my students are almost always nineteen or early twenties, while I keep aging. Yet, I get to stay current with our culture through my students. I couldn’t do that always holed up at home. Also, my teaching schedule makes me be efficient with my writing time.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut, Tim O’Brien, Lorrie Moore, Raymond Carver, Mark Haskell Smith, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, and, since last year, Stephen King. I always eschewed King’s novels as I don’t like horror, but then I read 11/22/63 and Joyland—great stuff.
What are you reading now?
Pete Townsend’s biography, Who I Am. I never liked memoirs until a friend recommended Patti Smith’s Just Kids, and now I’m hooked. I taught Smith’s book last semester along with David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day.
Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I just finished my next novel, A Death in Vegas. It’s about a man who sells beneficial bugs such as ladybugs to organic gardeners, and when he wakes up one morning in his hotel at a convention, he finds a naked dead young woman in his room. He’s in trouble—and his wife isn’t happy either.
I’m about to start my third collection of short stories, which follows The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea and Months and Seasons.
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Scarlett Johansen. She should be in every one of my novels. Anyone from the cast of American Hustle should, too. Man, that film offers stunning acting.
Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?
Ask my ghostwriter. Actually, I was once a ghostwriter. Keyboards.
Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Drinking hard and shooting guns. (No. That’s my answer after my telephone rang again.)
I like skiing, watching mesmerizing movies, and taking and printing photographs. This was always a question for Playboy Playmates. I’m glad to see we’re all equal now.
If you haven’t learned it yet, as you age, your metabolism gets more efficient. At fifteen, I could drink chocolate malts and eat Oreos and never gain weight. I was incredibly thin. Now if I breathe the smell of baked beans, I gain a pound. Gaining weight is so much easier than losing weight, so I try to stay away from favorite foods all in one spot. Thus, favorite meals are more to be dreamed about than eaten.
I love a great steak, such as the filet mignon that Café Beaujolais makes with blue cheese. I love artichokes with hollandaise sauce. I soar with a great French Onion soup or Thai Tom Kah soup, the one with coconut milk.
ABOUT THE BOOK
“Blood Drama is wildly entertaining with fast-paced dialogue and plot twists caroming like a steel ball in a pinball machine.” -Linda Hitchcock, BookTrib
In the crossover thriller BLOOD DRAMA, graduate student Ian Nash, after losing his girlfriend, gets dropped from a Ph.D. program in theatre. When he stops at a local coffee shop in the lobby of a bank to apply for a job, the proverbial organic matter hits the fan. A gang of four robs the bank, and things get bloody. Ian is taken hostage by the robbers when the police show up. Now he has to save his life.
READ AN EXCERPT
Published by: White Whisker Books
Publication Date: June 1, 2013
Number of Pages: 240
NOTE: Graphic Violence
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