Thursday, May 10, 2007

Writer's Corner

Michael Lars

Explosive prose, that is prose that takes risks, goes on adventures and comes back a little banged up, but much wiser and with a rich, deep flavor. Prose that does not ask questions, but deliveries answers tempered with a rush of adrenaline and a high level of passion. The genre of flash fiction typically tries to deliver a short burst of energetic imagery, but Michael Lars has made it his literary mission to bring his "Boisterous" personality directly to the reader. The challenge is in maintaining the desired level of energy while still conveying the ideas and not compromising the overall flow of the piece. Michael is trying to strike this balance while living and working in Warsaw, Poland. He considers himself an expatriate, and is using his time in Poland to stock pile adventures to later engage the reading public.

Michael recently answered a few of our questions on writing, music, and being an expatriate.

Orange Alert (OA): How would describe your style of writing?
Michael Lars (ML): I’m going for something visceral, dense and idea-rich, insight-rich, something really eye-opening and engaging. I want to articulate new visions and insights, to look at things through different lenses. I use my imagination a lot but it always comes from real life, I’m not interested in fantasy or escape just for the sake of it. I dig sh*t up, I’m a life writer. But depending on the context, I aim to be savage, explosive, manic or contemplative, bombastic, hallucinating. Mine is a testicular prose. I want to exhilarate the reader.

But all the while I’m just being myself. The reader can either embrace me or reject me. Either way, I think readers appreciate a strong unapologetic personality—it’s what they deserve. For now I’m still letting my style develop organically.

OA: Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
ML: My favorites are Henry Miller, Celine, Blaise Cendrars, and Proust. (I don’t have any particular fondness for French people, but I think their country has somehow managed to produce most of the world’s great writers. And Ralph Mannheim’s translation of Celine’s Journey To the End of the Night is the best English prose I’ve ever read—I’m convinced it must be better than the French original.) Of more recent writers, I like Irvine Welsh and especially the things Mark Leyner was doing in his first few books… But it was Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn that changed everything for me and suddenly made me believe in what literature could do. This happened at age 25. Before those two books I had little more than a passing interest in writing—I’d played a lot of music, mostly guitar, and I’d dabbled in songwriting – which is where I first developed my free-association skills.

But more importantly, the attitudes of hip-hop and 1980s sleaze metal! I think the development of hip-hop is ten times more interesting than anything happening in literature. Wu Tang, Dr. Octagon, Busta Rhymes, Dre, De La Soul, et cetera – I’m no aficionado but I just love the whole idea behind the hip-hop attitude, especially when they loosen up and get whacky – they need to do more of this. At the same time I grew up on metal and hair bands, and I like for instance the David Lee Roth sensibility – which is also in-your-face and not afraid to be stupid or obtuse, but in an entertaining burlesque way.

I’m tired of the composed, clean, sensible writing pushed by the publishing industry. I can understand why people aren’t reading books anymore – they’re just getting buried beneath all this bland bland bland... I’m finding myself saying the same thing as everyone else – “Wait for the movie!”

OA: How long have you been living in Poland? What brought you to Poland and why do you classify yourself as an expatriate?
ML: Three years. Everyone asks this, naturally. I’ve told the story to hundreds of people. My friends will say it was love. I will say it was escape / necessity. But it’s complicated – subject for a book maybe..? The short answer: My Polish/Lithuanian girlfriend and her friends invited me on a month-long trip to Siberia. This provided me the excuse to quit my dead-end job in Reno – I just threw all my sh*t in a storage unit in the middle of the Nevada desert, packed up two large bags and flew to Europe on a one-way ticket. Felt like throwing myself to the wind. Poland is a great place for an unemployed American because the beer and rent are cheap. After running up my credit card a little too far, I finally managed to get a series of jobs. The latest one is as an advertising copywriter at a big ad agency – where I’m a concept guy, so it’s more ‘pure creative’ pencil and paper stuff. The ideas have to be good enough to work in any language and any medium, so the challenge is good for my creative muscle.

Over here everyone calls us ‘expats,’ so I’m so used to the term I don’t think much about it. I was really at a crisis point back in the U.S., felt lost and disillusioned by what was expected of me and how I was supposed to live. I’m a restless person, so maybe it was inevitable. Yeah it’s a cliché, but I’m definitely an expatriate. One great thing about living abroad – I’ve never felt so American!

OA: In my opinion"Officewander" is a great start to your published career, how long had you been submitting work before you were published by Word Riot?
ML: Glad you liked it. It was about six months of sporadic submitting to a few different sites before I submitted “Officewander” – and then six more months before they finally put it online, so that makes almost a year. My first balls-out creative piece was actually published a year earlier for a photography agency catalog in Warsaw called Photoby, under a ridiculous pseudonym. Besides that, I also did a stint as a journalist for a business newspaper in Warsaw – wrote some cover articles even – but I don’t count that.

OA: Do you listen to music while you write? Who are some of your favorite musicians to listen to while writing and in general?
ML: Yeah, I do sometimes, and usually music provides the impetus for my off-the-cuff surreal stuff. The music is more of a starting point for a mood or a thought, I don’t listen continuously. It could be anything from Steve Reich to Devo, Iron Maiden to Ashanti, Journey to The Strokes, any song or piece that sets me off. I have this uncanny ability to enjoy “bad” music un-ironically. I recently submitted an essay/story I wrote about Huey Lewis and the News’ “The Power of Love,” because it’s one of those songs that, for whatever reason, sets my mind turning.

OA: What's next for Michael Lars?
ML: More reading, more writing, more exploring, more submitting things. Hopefully one day a book or two or three. Meanwhile making sure my day job stays interesting and doesn’t kill me. I don’t think too far ahead, but when I do it’s of the dreamy delusional variety that doesn’t do me much good.

Bonus Questions:
Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
ML: Yes, please. I drink it for the caffeine. Once in a while I wean myself off it to keep down the tolerance level, but I always come back. Here in Europe everything is done through an espresso machine, so I usually go for the Americano with milk. The best coffee in Warsaw is at Green Coffee, but usually I’m just at home throwing some Italian stuff into a paper filter.

OA: What is the last great book you've read?
ML: Nietszche’s Human, All Too Human. His books are like atom bombs. If any dude had the final word on things, it’s Nietszche. When it comes to books I go in for the heavy stuff, only the best history can provide, because I want books that will FEED me, not just plug along with some storyline. If I don’t like the first few pages, it’s out the window. I’m trying to finish Proust now, which is a real bitch but it’s worth it—he is the king of making something out of nothing. But I have to take breaks from the Proust and read shorter stuff – maybe a Nadja from Breton, a little Kundera on the lunch break, a Miller essay here and there. I’m going wicked erudite, man. Also the porno sites have some great headline-writers.
For more information on Michael Lars simply send him an e-mail.

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