Jamie Iredell: I’ve read I think all of your published writing (alas, since I don’t have television, I haven’t seen any of the script writing that you do). Your style is pretty easy going on the eyes and mind: it’s smooth, conversational, easy-to-read. I also read in an interview that you gave once that narrative is one of the saving features of literature, why it won’t ever die. Or something to that effect, anyway. Is narrative your primary focus when writing? Do you think carefully about language when composing, or in revision?
Nick Antosca: I do think about language a lot. Usually I try to make it smooth, conversational, easy-to-read, like you say. Sometimes I try to make it a little more austere, if there’s a certain element of myth-making going on in the voice. The stories “Soon You Will Be Gone and Possibly Eaten” and “The Early Years, Before His Great Adventures” are examples of that, I think. That’s also some of the James Salter influence on me. But language to me is in the service of clarity, of character, of narrative. I lose patience real fast these days with stuff that’s just language and no story. I didn’t always. But now, 90% of the time when I read stuff like that, I’m thinking, Yeah, but if you knew how to tell a good story, you’d be telling one. I’m not a natural storyteller. It took me a long time to shed my anti-storytelling “literary” impulses.
JI: One of the things that struck me in The Girlfriend Game was your taking on of tropes commonly found in–for lack of a better descriptor, or so as not to use so many that it just gets confusing–“genre” fiction: a boy who turns into an anthropomorphized giant rat, an action film-like super-killer hero, a horror-like world on the verge of apocalypse. Are you thinking about stories that fit into particular “genres” when you write?
NA: No, I don’t really write to genre. Not deliberately. I’m just influenced by what I read, I think. Right now I’m re-reading THE SHINING on audiobook and I just want to write horror. I just like stuff that gives you a feeling of discomfort in the pit of your stomach, that twists you. Different people read with different parts of their bodies. Nabokov always talked about reading with your spine. I read with the pit of my stomach.
JI: While reading The Girlfriend Game I noticed that most, if not all, of the sex that occurs in these stories is what you might call “hookups,” people kind of randomly coming together and having sex. Maybe it’s because I’m the father to a daughter and I’m more aware of the controversy of such things, but lately it seems I’ve noticed some criticism in the media of the “Hookup Culture” that prevails on college campuses. Were you thinking at all about this phenomenon of the hookup culture and making a comment on it by writing about these characters? Or were you guided by something more along the lines of your lonely characters bumping into some lonely and damaged other, and seeing how such encounters stirred up these characters’ emotions?
NA: No, I wasn’t really thinking about culture or anything. I was only thinking from a character perspective. In cases where sex scenes are central to the story, like in the story “Sofianne,” which is almost entirely a sex scene, maybe I was thinking more in terms of that Rilke line about how “two solitudes come together and border each other.” Although he was talking about love, I think. I’m not going to look it up, I’ll rely on my imperfect memory. But the idea applies to casual encounters too and is poignant that way, I think. I like sex scenes in fiction (and movies) that show character. Sex scenes run the risk of being gratuitous. But people reveal a lot about themselves when they’re naked.
JI: Yes, on sex scenes: although I’m not very good at writing them myself (or so I think; I haven’t written too many of them), Steve Almond once led a workshop while I was in graduate school, and he had an exercise where we were to write a bad sex scene in order to get to the characters’ core, as so much can be revealed through this vulnerable moment. You also seem to mine the romantic relationship in similar ways, even without the sex. The vulnerabilities revealed in “The Girlfriend Game,” for example, for both characters, get to the core of those characters’ insecurities. How much would you say you’re a “write what you know” kinda writer?
NA: I write what I know in terms in terms of doing an instinctive gut check to make sure the emotions seem real, even when the behavior is crazy. “The Girlfriend Game” isn’t based on a real experience. It’s an extrapolation from a real experience. The main character isn’t me, but of course he’s a version of me. I would never behave like he does but I’d probably feel what he feels. The girlfriend is loosely based on some people I’ve met in LA. I wrote the story after I moved to LA, even though it’s set in New York. A short film based on it was recently shot by a great young director named Armen Antranikian — it’s being edited now — and the setting has been changed to LA. I saw a rough cut and I’m really happy. The boyfriend is played by an actor named Jeff Ward and the girlfriend is an actress named Sophie Kargman. They’re great.
JI: The first book (actually anything) of yours that I read was Fires, when it came out from Impetus Press in 2006. I was impressed by that book because the writing was so sound on the sentence level, but also that you handled this beast of a form, the novel, so deftly. You’ve handled the novella and the short story, and you are of course a writer for film and television. Have you been at work on novels recently, or in the past few years? And how do you feel about these different forms? Is there a particular length you’re more or less fond of, and why?
NA: I have one novel finished that hasn’t been published, which I hope will one day be. It’s a YA novel though, and I have no qualifications in that space. For the moment, I’m mostly doing film & TV writing. I like the 5-act structure of feature screenplays (I know people think of movies as having 3 acts, but most actually have 5). I also love the novella, because it’s long enough to feel that a world has been created, but short enough to read in one sitting without popping your head up into the real world and getting distracted. Immersion is the best feeling. Ideally you get a prolonged sense of immersion from writing and transfer that feeling in condensed form to the reader.
JI: Where do you see yourself going as a writer of both film and television and fiction, and where, in general, do you see the publishing marketplace for writers going in the future?
NA: I love screenwriting and TV writing and I feel very lucky, shockingly lucky, to do it professionally. I hope to keep doing it as long as I can be paid for it. I have a lot of original projects in the works with my screenwriting partner Ned Vizzini and the goal is to also continue to write on TV shows, as we’ve done on Teen Wolf and Last Resort and are currently doing on a show called Believe that will be on NBC in 2014. It’s fun and it’s a nice contrast to the solitary work of prose fiction writing. I’d like it if more of my short stories were made into films, short or otherwise, whether I write the scripts or not.
As for the future of the publishing marketplace for writers, no fucking clue. But I’m not an optimist here. Not financially at least. I think it’s great right now in the sense that there are lots of places publishing indie books. But things look bleak if you want to make a living writing fiction, particularly fiction for adults. Virtually impossible.