Tuesday, 4 May 2010

TJ McIntyre Interview

TJ McIntyre in conversation with Frank Burton.

TJ McIntyre's Isotropes: A Collection of Speculative Haibun can be read online or downloaded for free from www.philistinepress.com.

Let's start off with an obvious question ... What attracted you to the Haibun form?

Back when I was eleven or twelve years old, I remember a school project that involved writing poems in various formats. I immediately fell in love with haiku and tanka and wrote them frequently, often in the margins of my notebooks when I should have been listening to the teacher. Over the last couple of years, I have been publishing some of these from time to time on my blog and on Twitter just for fun. Eventually, I started to write and submit these for various markets, notably Scifaikuest which is pretty well known for publishing speculative haiku and tanka -- they also publish haibuns.

Until reading Scifaikuest, I was not really familiar with the haibun form. Once I read a few, they immediately clicked with me. I've always loved writing flash fiction, and the haibun merges aspects of flash ficiton with haiku. I wrote "Promethean Petri Dish," sold it to Scifaikuest, decided I wanted to write some other haibuns exploring various tropes of genre fiction, and began writing this collection.

My haibuns in this collection may not be traditionally "correct" as far as purists of the form go -- typically a haibun is simply a single block of prose followed by a single haiku. To fully flesh out these stories (and I thought it was important to create fully formed stories for this project), I would often write several versus -- so to speak -- surrounded by either haiku or tanka as a kind of chorus, depending on what I wanted to say, and how I wanted it to sound. I'd mix up haiku and tanka for emphasis. I've never really been a stickler for the rules when it comes to writing, especially in poetry. I think it is important to study and understand form, of course, but only as form relates to function, and sometimes it is more functional to bend the form to fit your purpose, in my opinion.

Do you have a favourite genre?

That's a tough question. I really read across the board and do not restrict myself to any particular genre.

As a child I enjoyed fairy tales and myths. As a young adult I typically read horror, fantasy, and science fiction. I also enjoyed a good mystery or crime novel. During college, my interests leaned towards more formal literary and philosophical texts. Now, I just read whatever I feel like and try to mix it up from time to time.

Do you consider yourself a literary writer?

Not to get into semantics, but that depends on how you define "literary.' If we are talking in terms of the main definition of the word ("of, or relating to or having the characteristics of humane learning or literature" per Merriam-Webster), than yes, I do consider myself literary. I think all writers are literary.

Now, if we are talking in terms of "literary" as used to define the genre of writing found on particular shelves in your local bookstore, that's another matter entirely. My answer has to be "yes and no." As far as my own writing goes, I don't confine myself to any particular genre, but with that said, I do prefer writing stories with some speculative element whether it be a fantasy, science fiction, bizarro, horror, or something closer to magic realism. I also enjoy writing completely realistic fiction sometimes, but I don't always want to confine myself to the rules of this world. We all confine ourselves to the limits of our physical existence enough in real life, don't we? And writing, like reading, is an escape for me. Besides, the tropes of speculative fiction offer so many great tools that writers can use to express themselves in so many different ways. Another planet or an imaginary world is just a reflection of our own, after all, and you can't really understand how you look to others without some kind of reflection.

Who are your influences?

I have so many influences, far too many to list. I've always loved studying religions and mythologies, everything from The Bible to Gilgamesh to Native American and Icelandic folklore. I enjoy people who play with language and form; people like e.e. cummings, James Joyce, and Ken Kesey. I enjoy classic weird stories. Some of the more contemporary authors I enjoy include Ray Bradbury, Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, Stephen King, and Daniel Wallace.

Could you see yourself becoming a mainstream writer like Stephen King?

Okay, let's be honest, who wouldn't absolutely love to have that guy's sales and the opportunity to write for such a large audience? The man lives a charmed life; one that he worked very hard to achieve and maintain for all these years through (mostly) consistent output.

As for me, I just take my writing one day and one project at a time. Sure, I dream big (what writer doesn't), but I keep in mind the importance of enjoying even the most minor of victories in my writing life.

How do you feel about internet publishing?

I LOVE internet publishing! It is amazing to have the capability to post a link on a blog or social networking site so that anyone who is interested simply has to click a button to bring up my stories and/or poems. I think having stories and poems available to read for free online is a great way to attract and retain readers. Publishing online, I have the ability to connect with a worldwide audience that may not have been there for me using the more traditional methods of print publishing.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview! Especially liked your response to the question about being a literary writer.