In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Right now I am thoroughly enjoying Alex Gilvarry’s funny (and you know I don’t say this lightly)and poignant debut From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant. Here is what Alex had to say about reading, writing, and more specifically, writing in his underwear.
Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?
I fell into writing through watching films. When I was a teenager I was seriously affected by Quentin Tarantino and Wong Kar-Wai, then Wes Anderson and P.T. Anderson. I wanted to be a writer/director of films, so I started out writing screenplays, but I could never finish one. I had a talent for novel ideas and not following through on them. When I got to college I realized how much organization making a film took, how many people one needed to do it, and so I discovered that all I really wanted to do was tell stories. I wrote a few short stories for workshops but it was the novel that I always had my eye on. The book I wrote and the books I hope to write are satirical works of the way we live now. My current novel is about living in the last decade—a decade of war—and its consequences. It’s a satirical look at the situation in Guantanamo Bay, a what-if, hard-luck story about a struggling fashion designer who gets swept up in post-9/11 paranoia.
I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the proccess of writing a book. Can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?
You know how they say you should never write in your underwear? [ Editor’s Note – I have never heard of this. I wonder if it applies to blogging too?] Well, I write in my underwear. It’s the only job where you can show up to work in just your underwear, with the exception of exotic dancer. But in all seriousness, when I left my career in publishing—I was once an editor, too—it was very freeing for me that I could do this if I wanted to. So after a few hours of writing from home, wearing very little, I get dressed and go to a café to be around people, and write for a few more hours.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Michael Hastings’ new book, The Operators, which grew out of his Rolling Stone article, “The Runaway General” about General Stanley McChrystal and changed the course of the war in Afghanistan. His book is like spending a long, drunken weekend with McChrystal and his entourage in Paris, but it’s also a history of the war correspondent’s role during wartime.
Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?
Absolutely. For this novel I read a lot of Graham Greene, Max Frisch, and Kazuo Ishiguro. Since I started writing this novel, my first, in my late twenties, I needed a crash course in structuring a novel. All of these gentlemen wowed me with their craft.
Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be? How involved were in choosing the name of the book?
I had the title of my book as soon as I began. I always title in the first few pages of writing something new, because in my fiction, the title is an integral part of the story. In the case of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, the story begins on the title page. Since my novel is the protagonist’s memoir, written from prison, the title is a declaration of his innocence, his own declaration.
As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?
They are currently translating my book into German and Portuguese. This has been the biggest surprise for me. When writing, you never think that someone will read you in another language. In German, I’m the author of a book called “Bekenntnisse eines friedfertigen Terroristen.” To me that is wild.