By Tracy-Jane Newton
TJN: I must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading Deuced, was it as enjoyable to write as I found it to read?
PC: Writing Deuced was easily the most enjoyable time of my life. I had been writing it at night and on weekends, but then I lost my job and got a chance to focus on it full-time (love the dole). I would wake up, take a walk around my neighborhood, shower, eat breakfast, then off to work in a corner of my bedroom. I wrote from approximately 10AM to 6PM every weekday. I admit I took a few naps, but, still, I threw a lot of time at the book and steadily made progress. I wrote the bulk of it in a five-month period. I cannot tell you how nice it is to wake up in the morning and realize the only thing you have to do all day is something you want to do anyway.
TJN: Deuced seemed to me to be a novel that could easily be a real life story. Was any of it based on your personal experiences or situations around you or was it purely just an idea you had to research?
PC: It was heavily drawn from personal experience, though the overall story is fictional. The issues brought up in the book are issues I am very interested in and struggle with myself. It’s the old writing axiom of “write what you know”, I suppose. I wanted to write something true, at least to me, and I think that lends a certain resonance to the writing.
TJN: Did you find you had a natural ability to write from a young age or was it something you really had to work at to succeed?
PC: I think I’ve always had an affinity towards writing and a hyperactive imagination. When I was a kid, I wrote and illustrated a book about a bigfoot and a giant bat named Hogobong and Zowe who lived together on top of a mountain. It developed a cult following in my third grade class. But affinity and imagination will only take you so far. You need to read a lot and you need to write a lot. It’s like a pumice stone. You grind down what doesn’t work, what’s just ego, until you find your true voice underneath. I’m still grinding, but things are getting a bit shinier.
TJN: The story flows nicely, but I wondered if there were any parts of the story that you struggled with?
PC: I struggled with plenty. Make no mistake, writing can be a real pain in the ass. But writers are masochists. I’d fight my way through a tough section, even if the writing wasn’t good and I knew it, just to keep making progress. Then I’d go back and fix it later. I’d edit as I wrote, reading through what I had written on previous days, grooming it, so to speak, and then catching up to the story and kind of carrying the momentum into the new parts.
So much of writing is editing. After the five-month writing period, I thought I had the book completely finished. I took a job because money was getting tight and just worked on getting the manuscript published for a while. After a few months I took another look at the thing and was shocked at how clunky it seemed. So I went through it few more times and trimmed more and more fat as well as rearranged a few things. Didn’t change the story, but changed the presentation. That gave it much of the flow it now has. And here I have to thank Travis, a friend of mine from college and a hell of a futon salesman. His notes on the manuscript were invaluable. Go Hawks.
TJN: Do you have an ‘Oblivion Brother’ in real life?
PC: I have a few Oblivion Brothers. Oblivion Brothers are those who recognize there’s a lot of bullshit in this world and the bullshit covers up beautiful, basic truths. But when you try to operate outside the bullshit, it kind of puts you out of step with much of society. That can be kind of isolating and sad, which is why we have the Brotherhood. Like united nomads.
TJN: Would you say you were more of a ‘Zip’ or an ‘Otto’ or neither?
PC: I am more like Zip, but there’s plenty of me in Otto, too. Guess I’m a bit deuced.
TJN: Zip questions Irene’s religious belief and is extremely sceptical himself. Is this something you identify with?
PC: Most certainly. I can understand the desire to believe in a defined, organized religion. “Got a problem? Check this book. And don’t worry. Everybody else in here thinks like you do.” That sounds nice. Comforting, at least. But if you consider that every religion is basically the same in the sense that they are people’s attempts to understand the world around them, I think you’d be hard-pressed to choose one over the others. If you were looking at it objectively. Of course, objectivity and religion don’t share space very often. The long and short of it is Lennon had it right with “Imagine”.
TJN: How do you feel about the idea of Congress banning non-Christian literature?
PC: I had not heard anything about that, but it sounds completely retarded.
TJN: Drug use is prevalent in Deuced and obviously an important part of the story. Where do you stand on the whole drugs issue?
PC: Drugs, like everything else in this world, can be used to positive or negative results. They can expand your mind, offer certain truths about perception, allow a degree of coping with reality, but they can also be used to excess, distance you from others, and become a crutch. It all depends on the individual. Know thyself, drug fiend.
TJN: Do you find that writing about the more contentious issues like religion and drugs is more controversial in the States than it would be perhaps somewhere in Europe?
PC: I would certainly believe that could be true, but currently I seem to be below the radar here in the States. But, really, I never intended for this book to be controversial. To me, it’s just a tale of modern man. So if it’s controversial, modern man is the controversy.
TJN: How do you feel about reality TV shows like the ones described in your book and have you had any first-hand experience of them?
PC: They are a blight on society. They encourage the cult of celebrity, of becoming famous for the sake of being famous rather than for achieving anything noteworthy. In fact, the people who excel on these programs usually do so via nefarious means. And people love to watch that for some reason. But we can’t expose ourselves to so much duplicity and general bad behavior without it rubbing off on the society in general.
When I was a kid, I watched stories on TV. Someone was telling me a story, teaching me a lesson, illuminating some idea. And by simply watching so many stories, I gained at least a rudimentary sense of story telling and characters. I learned something. But now, with reality TV, people are basically watching pieces of poop flung against the screen. Seriously. I worked in reality TV for almost six years. It’s a wasteland. It survives because it’s cheap to make. And it, in turn, cheapens our society.
TJN: I believe that your novel would transfer well to film, is this of interest to you, or is the writing by far the most important part?
PC: The writing is by far the most important part, but I would be fascinated to see someone’s cinematic take on it. I would be fascinated by the money, too.
TJN: Have you had any further success in getting your book ‘out there’?
PC: I’ve done a couple readings and really enjoyed them. I’m looking to do a reading in Los Angeles soon. I also released a few copies of the book “into the wild” via this Book Crossing website (www.bookcrossing.com), but haven’t heard anything from them. I hope they’re doing okay wherever they are. You guys don’t call, you don’t write…
TJN: Is there any significance in the design of the cover?
PC: I suppose so. Black, white, grey. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Nothing, everything, something. I wanted to keep it simple and basic. Maybe evoke a paperback from the Sixties. I would’ve yellowed the pages if I could’ve.
TJN: Who would you say are your literary heroes and which novels would you say are the greatest of all time?
PC: My literary pantheon includes George Orwell, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Donald Barthelme. And David Sedaris is free to stop by whenever he wants. As far as greatest novels, I’ll just say my favorite books: The Stranger, 1984, The Age of Reason, Catcher In The Rye. And if I could just return to George Orwell for a moment: they called him “the wintry conscience of a generation”. That’s about the coolest nickname ever.
TJN: What are you working on at the moment and when will that be available? Are you considering writing about something from a completely different genre?
PC: Right now I’m doing some journalism work for a weekly paper out here in Los Angeles as well as writing some short-shorts, but I’m also getting started on another book. It’s rather different than Deuced in the sense that it has a bunch of animals talking to each other. Guess it’s a fable or something. It’ll be available as soon as I finish it. Hopefully within the year. And in the back of my head, I’m also working on yet another book that would be more like Deuced in tone, but I need to do some more living first.
TJN: Do you have any advice for budding authors who may read this?
PC: Read a lot. Write a lot. Write what you interests you. Know what interests you. Write truthfully. Buy my book.
TJN: Please suggest three story ‘prompts’.
1. What if you woke up to find a note from your wife saying she had left you for your father?
2. What if you suspected someone had replaced your dog with a different dog, but you weren’t sure and didn’t want to make a big deal about it because if you were wrong, your dog would be insulted?
3. What if you saw a bag of money on the ground and when you picked it up and looked inside, it shot anthrax in your face?
TJN: Where can we buy your book?
PC: You can get the book at Amazon.com, at Trafford.com, 33 1/3 Books in Echo Park, California, and, hell, send me an e-mail (email@example.com) and maybe we’ll work something out.
TJN: Finally, as an American, where do you stand on the subject of Bush and what is happening in Iraq?
PC: I don’t care for Bush. I can’t believe he became president. Twice. He seems more like a guy playing a president than a real leader. I think that’s a reflection of American politics and society: built on name recognition and media savvy rather than actual depth. Beyond that, American politics are an industry now. Republican or Democrat, our government is stocked with people who are not public servants, but rather well-connected businessmen. And we’re the ones providing the connection by electing them. We should not have career politicians. There is too much money involved and money can be so corrupting. Or at least let everybody get a piece!
As far as Iraq, war and violence make me uneasy. To suggest military action in Iraq was taken as a last resort is ridiculous. Hussein was bad news. We all know that. But there should’ve been a truly worldwide force to remove him from power and/or there should’ve been a clearer path from Hussein’s removal to a new functioning government. And as far as removing unsavory world leaders, where do we stop? Who gets to define “unsavory”?
What I think is interesting is how small our world seems now through telecommunications, the Internet, air travel, globalization, etc. We hear reports from all around the world, we read articles online, the farthest place on earth is a phone call away, and you can be on another continent in a matter of hours. It’s like we’re all touching each other now, so we should all be on the same page. And I think that’s driving everybody crazy. At least Americans. You can’t be everywhere, you can’t do everything, but our TVs/movies/cell phones/computers keep telling us, yes, you can. I think there’s comfort in the “here be dragons” portion of a map. What’s wrong with going to a new land and realizing, “Oh, shit, you guys do things completely different over here”? Besides, you’ve got to set your own affairs in order before you go traipsing about the globe with your big stick. Katrina dramatically drove home the point that all is not well at home.
TJN: Thanks, Perry, this has been an interesting, honest interview. If you do decide to tour your book this side of the pond, please do let me know!
PC: Thank you, Tracy-Jane. Maybe we can put together some kind of Alternative Reader/Expatriate Writer Reading Series. Until then, take care.
About the author:
Perry Crowe grew up in Mounds View, Minnesota, a northern suburb
of Minneapolis. He received a Bachelor’s degree in English from the
University of Iowa where he also participated in the Undergraduate Writers Workshop in Fiction. He now lives in Los Angeles. He has been published in Los Angeles CityBeat and is the culture voice of LAVoice.org.