A few months ago I had the privilege of reviewing Apex Publications’ fantastic anthology, Dark Faith: Invocations. One of the short stories in it was “I Inhale the City, The City Exhales Me” by an author I knew very little about at the time, Douglas F. Warrick. I reviewed his short by describing it as: “…like watching the creation of a deranged anime cartoon come to life. Not normally my thing, but this short rocked and sums up my entire opinion of Dark Faith: Invocation. 5 out of 5 stars.” So what is the point of telling you all this? Oh yea, that’s right, I have that exact same author, Mr. Warrick, here today for a few interview questions. He also has a brand new collection of shorts, Plow the Bones, coming out soon which I will be reviewing. Hopefully we can stir up some more deranged and fantastical creations, peaking your interests in the works of the writer that is Douglas F. Warrick.
Q: I noticed through social media that you have an affinity for tattoos, which I think is extremely awesome. Do these in anyway cross-over with any of your stories?
I do love getting tattooed. No matter how much it hurts (and it frequently hurts a great deal, especially on the chest, which is where I’ve gotten my newest one; don’t listen to people who tell you “It didn’t hurt that much,” those people are liars). I get tattoos for the same reason that I go to the gym. I have an aesthetic goal I want to reach. This goal is entirely personal, it doesn’t depend upon whether or not other people find the aesthetic compelling or repulsive. I just know what I want to see when I look in the mirror. In that sense, I have a certain amount of leverage over my body. I can work toward sculpting the shape of it, and I can pay to have it decorated, and then I feel like it’s all mine. I wonder how many people feel a sense of ownership over their body. I don’t think any of my tattoos have a particular connection to my stories, though. I’d love to write something about tattoos at some point, if I can find the right idea.
Q: If you could sum up your upcoming book Plow the Bones, in just a few sentences to a complete stranger looking to buy the book, what would they be?
Reading Plow the Bones is like walking through the world’s most melancholy freakshow tent. If in your secret heart of hearts, you’ve always wanted to read about a punk band made of living clay or a girl whose happiest moment occurs when her head catches on fire, the purchase of this book will fulfill a lifelong dream for you.
Q: What is it like being an author for Apex Publications?
Heaven. I couldn’t ask for a nicer group of people to work with. Jason Sizemore, Janet Harriett, and Lesley Conner have split their time between promoting the hell out of the thing and coaching me through my frequent bouts of nervous hyperventilation in the lead-up to its publication. I made my very first short story sale to Apex Digest back in 2006, so Apex feels a little like home to me. There’s a nice bit of nostalgic symmetry at play.
Q: I have a great fondness for short stories that knock the wind from my lungs and leave me gasping for air. Am I going to suffocate reading Plow the Bones, and do you have a personal favorite within this collection?
I can’t provide any guarantee that anybody will asphyxiate whilst reading Plow the Bones, unless they’re using it in terribly unorthodox ways. Don’t try to swallow it or press it firmly against your trachea or read it with a plastic bag over your head. I can’t afford the legal fees. But yeah, I hope people are impressed with it. I hope it breaks their hearts. I hope it makes people want to write stories. I think it will. I’m very proud of this book. As for favorites, that’s tough. I think the story I’m most proud of in this collection is “Inhuman Zones: An Oral History of Jan Landau’s Golem Band.” That was so much fun to write, and it’s the story about which I most often daydream. It’s a story about live music and local bands and magic and isolation.
Q: I’ve read lots of anthologies and hundreds of short stories, however, I don’t think I have read an entire collection by one author in a single book in a long time. This fact that you have your collection of shorts getting published in a single book speaks volumes for your ability and talent as an author. I would love to hear your input on this?
I love single-author collections. One of the reasons I love them so much is that they give the reader a chance to explore the recurring themes in an author’s work, themes of which the writer him or herself may not even be aware. And in a collection, that experience is more compressed and more immediate than it would be over the course of several longer works. Pick up Love Ain’t Nothing but Sex Misspelled by Harlan Ellison or Theatro Grotesquo by Thomas Ligotti or Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges. Each story obviously exists as its own entity, but over and over again, those authors tell us what scares them, what compels them, what angers them, what turns them on. For a while after reading those books, the reader adopts those attributes into their own thought processes. Your friends start to remind you of Ellison’s down-and-outers. The city you live in starts to feel like one of Ligotti’s paranoid industrial wastelands. Your dreams feel sexy and full of secret importance, like Borges. If it is very good, a collection allows a writer to infect a reader. I don’t know that I’m good enough for all that, but I want very much to be. I hope that I at least get close.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind your short story “I Inhale the City, The City Exhales Me” ?
Osaka is a very cool city. I wish I could spend more time in it. Maybe some day I will. The coolest thing about Osaka is that it’s always awake. There’s always something going on. Parts of it (especially the parts about which I write in “I Inhale”) are pretty touristy, but that comes with its own bombastic charm. I knew I wanted to write a story about it, about how bright and kinetic it is. About a year after I visited Japan, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about the attitudes American men have about Asian women, and the depictions of women in some Japanese media. Through the course of that conversation, I was faced with an interesting conflict. I’m a feminist (or a feminist ally, if you prefer that nomenclature for male feminists, as I know some do), and I find myself angered by systemic misogyny, regardless of the culture from which it stems. However, I’m also coming at my feminism from a deeply privileged perspective. I’m a white heterosexual dude, and because of that privilege, the act of passing judgement on a culture to which I don’t belong feels icky. So on the one hand, I don’t like the way some Japanese media treats women. On the other hand, I don’t like the some way white westerners marginalize Asian cultures. I still haven’t resolved that conflict. But that was the seed for “I Inhale.”
My last question: Any particular reason you have been so successful with your short stories?
Ha-ha. It’s strange to read a sentence describing me as “successful.” I don’t think of myself that way. So thanks for that, it really does mean a lot to me. In any case, I’m where I am because I work hard, I read a lot, and a lot of people believed in me. People stuck by me when I was being obstinate or when anxiety turned me into a hermit. People encouraged me or kicked my ass or waited patiently, and they were able to intuit when to do which. If I have any success, I have it because of the support of those really great human beings.
Interested in finding out more about Mr. Warrick ?
Douglas F. Warrick Bio:
Douglas F. Warrick is a writer, a musician, and a world-traveler. His first published short story appeared in Apex Digest back in 2006. Since then, Douglas’s work has been published in a variety of periodicals, websites, podcasts, and anthologies, and has grown progressively stranger. Douglas originally hails from Dayton, Ohio, but his travels have taken him all over Asia. Douglas has screamed Buzzcocks lyrics with Korean punk rockers in the neon alleys of Seoul, marveled at the oddness of Beijing’s masked opera singers and illusionists, piloted a bicycle through Kyoto on the way to the Golden Temple, broken up a fight between an Australian tourist and a Thai street vendor in Bangkok, and learned that the world is much weirder more wonderful than anything he could fabricate.
Purchase Plow the Bones (You can still get signed copies!) : http://www.apexbookcompany.com/collections/all-books/products/plow-the-bones/
Author Blog: http://www.douglasfwarrick.com/
Publisher Website: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/