Interview: Brad Green (Issue 78)

Brad Green’s “Devil’s Fingers” appears in our current issue (78). His work can be found in The Texas Observer, Surreal South ’11, Needle: A Magazine of Noir and elsewhere. He edits at PANK magazine and Dirty Noir. Find him online at http://about.me/bradgreen.

tmr: How did you come to writing fiction?

BG: I’ve been writing fiction seriously (that is with an aim toward publication) for a little over four years now. Of course, I wrote prior to that: a novel set on a desert planet I furiously typed on a brown Corona after reading Dune when I was eleven, an effusive and self-indulgent seventy thousand word memoir I wrote in a month while waiting in a cold Colorado room for an apple-eyed girl to fulfill a promise she never would. Wild texts full of stringy philosophy and screeching language. Aborted attempts and various scribblings. The sorts of things most writers churn through. But then I stopped writing one day. Perhaps it was frustration. Perhaps it was getting married, having kids. I don’t know, but I didn’t write a word for twelve years. I didn’t even read anything but Star Wars novels and computer books.

But I never got rid of my books. Each day I’d sit on the couch watching TV, wearing a callous into my thumb playing the Xbox, chasing the kids while those spine-stamped names worked on me: Cormac McCarthy, Kent Haruf, James Salter, Tom Franklin, Chris Offutt, Will Christopher Baer and many others. I thought about writing nearly every day during those twelve years, but I never did anything about it.

Then one day the house was kidless, full of the quiet thrall of lazy afternoon sun. I slid a collection of short stories by Charles Baxter off the shelf. I like to think the book separated from the others with a hiss, but it was a silent motion, forgettable really. There was an imaginable heft to it that I hadn’t felt in the Star Wars books. Resonance. Twelve years since I’d read something of substance. Twelve years. I flipped the book open and started reading. Three pages in I put the book down, shuffled to my desk, fired up the computer, and wrote a story from start to finish. That was a little over four years ago. Since that day, I’ve written two novels and numerous short stories. I signed with an agent a short while ago and she’s shopping the first novel now. I’m still working on the second.

tmr: Who are some of your influences?

BG: I’m influenced by books that make me seethe with jealousy. Who does that? Kent Haruf’s Plainsong, for one. Such a lovely, delicate book, possessed with grace and fierce beauty. I wrote an essay about this book for the Lit Pub. McCarthy’s Outer Dark and the plodding force of Blood Meridian as well. Salter’s Light Years, his story collections Dusk and Last Night. Salter makes me feel inferior as a writer. His rendering of desire and grief is just primal and impacting. I’m influenced by books that move me, by sentences that force me to stop down and stare the way my wife’s belly does in the moonlight.

But lately, crime fiction has been more of an influence than literary fiction, because what is beauty in fiction if it’s not coupled with a story that has momentum? It’s like kissing a supermodel that can’t remember your name. I’m arriving at a point now in my development where these arbitrary lines of genre simply don’t make sense. I tend to think of books as effective or not, as entertaining or not. Will Christopher Baer’s Kiss Me, Judas, for instance, really enlightened me to the possibilities of diversity within our rather narrowly defined genres. I wasn’t expecting to find traces of Salter’s lyrical and sly prose woven together with black-hearted noir. But I did find that. And that book made me seethe in all the right ways. It helped change the way I write.

tmr: What is your creative process like?

BG: For me, writing is basically a routine of winnowing out text from a murder of red ink. I try to get it right, but I never do. Forward motion followed by doubt always. My writing sessions, stolen minutes on a clattering keyboard at work or a late night’s fretting at the kitchen table—that’s it, yes, fretting. Frantic progress followed by disarming halts. Occasional gaps wherein I fear it’s all gone again. Such a rough brillo of frustration. But when you least expect it, a sentence gets typed out that offers that fluttery blush of satisfaction, softer than a puppy’s warm belly. So really, this is my writing process: I seek that warm belly whenever I can and persist through the rest.

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