Welcome to the seventeenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with journalist novelist Malcolm Brenner. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found at here.
PLEASE NOTE: Although I endeavour to keep this blog light and cheerful, it would only be realistic to include authors who express strong opinions and / or who have had particularly bad experiences within the industry. This has been the case with Mr Brenner and I hope you will find this interview interesting.
Morgen: Hello Malcolm. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Malcolm: I am a child of the 1950’s and ‘60’s. My early life was an uneasy mixture of normal 1950’s American culture, with its conservative materialistic values, and pseudo-scientific weirdness, because my parents were deeply involved in Wilhelm Reich’s “orgone energy” theories. I remember wanting to be a writer as early as second grade, but I don’t remember why; it may have been the short stories excerpted in “My Weekly Reader.” I was never popular in school and had to fight constantly. This left me with PTSD and a virulent hatred of bullies. English was one of the only subjects in which I did well. In college I wanted to be a film director or cinematographer, but my films never got finished. I finally and reluctantly concluded that I lack the social and financial skills for that occupation. After moving to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico in 1992, I found work as a reporter for bordertown newspapers and wrote for a living. I still do.
Morgen: English was my best subject but I was luckier than you – I was ignored rather than bullied. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Malcolm: My life having been marked by extremely strange occurrences, I find I cannot come up with fictional plots that are any more unlikely or entertaining than the things that have actually happened to me. Therefore I tend to stick with journalism. But perhaps that’s just because I’m lazy.
Morgen: Or what you know best? What have you had published to-date?
Malcolm: Last year I self-published my first novel, “Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover” (www.wetgoddess.net), based on my experiences as a student at New College of Florida in the 1970’s. I had to self-publish due to the novel’s controversial theme, a human-dolphin love affair. It’s available on Amazon.com, and through the above web site. I am a regular contributor to Harbor Style magazine, www.harborstyle.com. Aside from that, just 20 years of daily print reporting for the Farmington Daily Times, the Gallup Independent, the Charlotte Sun and the Boca Beacon. Hundreds of thousands of words, if not millions. Gave up counting long ago.
Morgen: I haven’t started counting but I would guess at around a million. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Malcolm: Yes, “Wet Goddess” is also available as an eBook from Smashwords, the only eBook publisher I could find that would readily accept the sexual content (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/63173). The process of creating an eBook is purely rote, mechanical and boring. So far I haven’t sold any, but it’s only been available for a little over a week.
Morgen: These things take time; people have to know that you exist. Let’s hope this helps a little. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Malcolm: My first magazine piece was published in the now-defunct Future Life in 1978, but I was so depressed at the time I had to kick myself to realize I’d finally been published. The thrill of being accepted is nothing compared to the thrill of cashing a paycheck and being able to eat and pay bills.
Morgen: That certainly does help. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Malcolm: I gave up counting long ago. “Wet Goddess” was rejected by every publisher I sent it to, that is, more than 20. Two agents proved utterly useless, worse in fact since they raised false hopes. I responded to rejection by publishing the book myself, thanks to modern technology.
Morgen: Many people are doing the same. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Malcolm: In addition to my contributions to Harbor Style, I am writing “Growing Up In The Orgone Box: Memories of a Reichian Childhood,” about my family’s weirdness and the pseudoscientific quasi-cult that inspired it.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Malcolm: I write mostly weekdays and take weekends off, unless I’m on a short deadline. I write something every day, even if it’s just an entry on a friend’s Facebook page. I do not write on my memoir every day; I seem to go through more and less productive periods, and I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome.
Morgen: What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Malcolm: Sometimes I feel more motivated to write than others. That is normal. Writer’s block is a fabrication of our culture. The only way to cure writer’s block is to write something, anything. I become less concerned with the form and content of what I’m writing and feel more liberated to write what I feel, rather than what I “ought” to write.
Morgen: Absolutely, and do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Malcolm: I wish I could plot my stories. Plot escapes me.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Malcolm: An enormous number of them, stuck in my head. Some are just too imposing.
Morgen: They often make the best stories. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Malcolm: Most favorite: not having to work for the jerks that have been my bosses in the past. Least favorite: the fact that I’m broke almost all the time.
Morgen: Hopefully the good outweighs the bad. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Malcolm: Don’t quit your day job. Set deadlines and stick to them. And don’t write what everybody else is writing. (If I see another vampire fantasy, I think I’ll barf.)
Morgen: A very recent question re. agent hunting on one of the LinkedIn forum’s was from a chap writing a vampire novel and I suggested that he might want to think again as it’s becoming seen as a done-to-death (pardon the pun) topic. I’ve heard that angels are going to be the next big thing (books about them are certainly popular in the Red Cross shop I volunteer in) and that as he’s only just now looking for an agent it’ll likely be a couple of years at least before his book is out, by which time it’ll probably have passed. It is important for an author to think about trends especially if he/she wants to be mainstream. What do you like to read Malcolm?
Malcolm: Mostly contemporary history, which is often stranger than fiction. I find I start a lot of books and don’t finish them because they don’t hold my interest. Some science-fiction, provided it’s not too gross, revolting, depressing and dystopian. Ian Watson practically killed the genre for me.
Morgen: Oh dear. I don’t read sci-fi but I’ll know now not to veer towards him if I change my mind. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Malcolm: Not yet, aside from the LinkedIn Self-Published Author’s site (part of http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Published-Authors-Network-84480?mostPopular=&gid=84480) which generated this interview. Of course, we’ll have to see how this works out.
Morgen: We will. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Malcolm: I am based in the USA, where everything and anything becomes a commodity. When I self-published “Wet Goddess” last year I got a lot of radio interviews for my book’s controversial topic, but everybody wanted to talk about my lifestyle and character, or lack of it, not the book. I think my 15 minutes of fame are just about up, as sales have slowed to a crawl. If I had tried to self-publish in Britain, I’d probably be in jail now (that’s gaol to you) due to your country’s harsh anti-bestiality laws.
Morgen: We call it ‘jail’ these days too. 🙂 Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Malcolm: I am on Facebook. So far, of no value whatsoever. I have been thrown out of a couple of chat rooms for expressing unpopular opinions.
Morgen: Oh dear. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Malcolm: Aside from the websites mentioned above you can Google “Malcolm J. Brenner” or my book’s title. You’ll get an earful.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Malcolm: I am extremely disillusioned by the commercialism of the publishing industry, but then, I was a member of the hippie counter-culture back in the day, so it’s not unexpected, I guess.
Morgen: Thanks Malcolm. I wish you well for the future.
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