Thursday, August 09, 2007

Writer's Corner

J. Lee Luera

Where do writers go to create their stories and poems? I am not talking about the coffee shop on the corner or the antique typewriter in the basement or the laptop on the train, but where does the mind travel to experience these stories first hand. What is the adventure and how will the mind take you there? They may come from a place inside of you, but rarely is the story a step by step depiction of your everyday life. You may from time to time wonder about to other places inside of you to create these journeys.

Up and coming Texas writer J. Lee Luera calls this his "secondary life". At times it may shadow his daily life, but there are moments it simply floats down a more interesting path that Luera himself would ever venture to travel upon. I equate this to the jazz musician playing an old standard in a hot jazz club. He knows the notes of the standard and begins to play them, but in a moment of pure creativity and imagination his notes float and soar, wildly traveling to another land completely. The adventure, that escape from the structure of the song may result and in a original recording of the interpretation, while the writer's soaring may result in a new piece of fiction.

J. Lee Luera appears in the recent online issue of Ragad and he has also appeared in DecomP. Recently, Luera took some time out to talks about his recently published work and his goals for the future.

Orange Alert (OA): Your recent piece on Ragad, Black Love, was really well put together. Is this story based on a real life event? Do you find it difficult to write about your life in such a honest way?
J. Lee Luera (JL): Thanks for the kind words. It was based on a real life event, and it wasn’t. Usually, in all my writing there’s a large chunk of the story that is taken from my own experiences. Most of the time, what appears on the screen of my laptop are usually largely dramatic parts of what I like to call a “secondary life.” My daily experiences like going to work, or school, or going out drinking are my run-of-the-mill, everyday, goings-on, but during all the monotonous parts, I trail off and fantasize extensions of my social and atmospheric interactions throughout the day. This keeps me sane, as well as helping me to create stories. For me, it’s hard to think of life without this separate reality. It’s actually odd, because usually when a story is finished and I come back from this fully imagined state, the stories closely resemble my own life. I guess you could say I dream of myself all day.

Usually after I read a draft of a story I get really self conscious about it, because they do so closely resemble my own experiences. People who know me can pick it out immediately, and knowing that really puts me off sometimes. For instance, I wasn’t really going send black love out to any of the online magazines. I had it in my back pocket, finished, for a couple of months before I figured, fuck it, what do I have to lose? Not her, she’s already long gone. I guess it’s just the way I have to look at it. If people are sensitive about being characters in my stories, well then there’s not much I can really do about it.

Interesting story actually, when it comes to writing about experiences. I was about seventeen or eighteen, and I went to an upscale collegiate party with my high school sweetheart. Well, we were all just sitting around sipping wine, and all of a sudden one of the grandmothers of my girlfriend’s friend starts reading palms. Usually, I shy away from that sort of thing but the crazy old lady insisted. She took one look at my palm and she started to tear up. She said I had a short life line and that it would all end suddenly. Then she said that I had a poet’s soul and asked if I wrote. When I said yes, she told me that I should only write about what I knew and what I felt, and that that, and only that, would guarantee any happiness in my life. It was all really emotional. I guess after that, I kind of knew what I had to write about.

OA: I’ve done a few searches on the internet, where might we be able to read more of your work?
JL: I don’t really have a lot published on the internet. I have one other piece up on the april issue of Decomp magazine. My submission process is sluggish, at best. I tend to look for places who don’t publish based on the “buddy” process. Anyone who writes and attempts to get their stuff out there knows what I’m talking about. It’s usually inevitable. If an editor likes your work, they’re going to continue to publish it anytime you send it in. The problem with this is, you get some online mags who have a cyclical transition of writers being published, which makes it really hard for up and comers. It’s sad actually, none of us are in this for the money, it’s a largely underground and independent scene, which makes it completely ridiculous when there’s any nuance of egotism involved.

OA: Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
JL: I’m a large fan of collecting things that are hard to get. It’s really rare that I got to the nearest Barnes and noble and pick up a book off the shelve. And I say Barnes and Noble because it’s one of three bookstores there are in El Paso. It isn’t a small city, by any means, it’s actually relatively large, but people here just don’t read. It’s not a very nurturing city for artist types, Artists that aren’t into Chicano musings, anyway. I’d have to say that some of my biggest influences would include; Mickey Hess, Doug Milam, Don de Grazia, who’s novel is by far one of the best I’ve read, Sean Carswell, Kevin Sampsell Al Burian, and Etgar Keret. Also, im a huge fan of a local poet from here in El Paso, Bobby Byrd. His poetry is just mind-blowing stuff, talk about writing from experiences.

OA: Have you have performed at a reading? Do you think prose as a whole is meant to the read aloud or simply just read? Do you feel your words take on a different meaning when read aloud? JL: Unfortunately, my shyness prevents me from doing such a thing. I’m truly, deathly shy. I think any writing can be enjoyed both ways. Take Mike Daily, for instance. He just published his second novel ALARM, and it comes with a bonus cd that has most of it spoken word in front of music. He performs his stuff in front of an audience and gets great response from it. Another good example is the poet that I mentioned, Bobby Byrd. He teamed up with Jim Ward from Sparta (also and El Paso native) and recorded a beat- era style EP with his words dubbed over Wards music. I saw them in a little Mexican restaurant in downtown El Paso, and it just blew me away. I think the lines between all creative arts are being blurred and burnt, and some very, very interesting things are coming in their wake.

As far as words taking on different meanings, I think it’s all subjective really. It’s going to take on a different meaning in any medium in which it’s presented. It depends on the person. The great thing about this mixing of mediums and literature is that you get people interested in your work, which would’ve never picked up a book otherwise.

OA: As a younger writer have you set any goals for your writing or are simply writing what comes to you?
JL: Well, it a hard question to answer really. Eventually there’ll be a novel somewhere. For now I’m just experiencing things, working out my chops. The struggle is that I only want to put out the best possible work, but as I continue to write I continue to hone my skill, so being the perfectionist that I am, it takes a while before I see anything fit enough to submit.

OA: What is next for J. Lee Luera?
JL: I just finished outlining a prose-poetry style novella, tentatively titled “A Sh*t Stain Across Texas.” It’s has the same feel as Noah Cicero’s, “The Human War”. It’s about a Mexican tumbleweed that traverses through Texas witnessing glimpses of peoples lives.
Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
JL: Yes, very much so. I get headaches if I don’t have it. I like it dark and strong, so the slow drip at La Nieve in downtown El Paso does just fine, after a few too many drinks.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy currently? Who are some of your all-time favorites?
JL: I like the early eighties punks gone old. Fugazi (or course), nomeansno, bad brains, and Henry Rollins. On the otherside of the spectrum, Afghan Whigs are one of my favorites, Jenny Lewis, Richmond Fontaine, Joanna Newsome, Dan Higgs, Mogwai, iron and wine, Select Yer Fighter (from Germany), the list goes on and on.

For more information on J. Lee Luera check out his myspace page.

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