September 16, 2013
NICK ANTOSCA: Okay, normally they do self-interviews here, where the author just interviews him- or herself. But I didn’t want to do that, so in this case two authors are going to interview each other. We both have books out. Mine is The Girlfriend Game, a collection of stories which came out last month. Yours is Threats, a novel which came out last year and was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. We both live in Los Angeles. We both moved here in the last few years.
It seems like a lot of writers are moving out here. I came because I wanted to write for TV. Why did you come? A disproportionate number of serial killers have lived in Southern California. Why do you think that is?
AMELIA GRAY: I had just finished Threats and was in that awful place after you finish a book, casting about, no projects, nothing going on. It was my seventh year in Austin and I was doing a lot of hanging out in bars. I came out here to visit and found all of my friends were pursuing interesting and different things; writing novels, working on screenplays, directing short films, writing for shows, general hustling. It was so compelling and I figured some of the energy would rub off on me and so I had moved within two months. I like it here.
I’ve got to see your source on serial killers in Southern CA. There’s a certain kind of fame-addled killer that seems somewhat unique to LA–thinking that cop killer Christopher Dorner with the celebrity shout-out manifesto–but I think serial killers are pretty general. How do you find LA compares to NYC? Would you go back there? Do you see yourself reaching a saturation point with the TV writing thing? It seems all-consuming, though clearly not, since you’ve managed a book.
NICK ANTOSCA: I think my source for that serial killer factoid is a line of dialogue in the final episode of The Shield. During the first few months I was here, I was driving in a car with my writing partner when one of us remarked that Los Angeles seems somehow wilder, slightly more dangerous, then the East Coast. The other disagreed. Just then an enormous truck came down the street in front of us, slammed into a little hatchback, and just kept on driving like nothing had happened. A young woman got out of the hatchback, ran into the street, and picked up a piece of her car that had been knocked off.
I wouldn’t go back to New York. It’s too expensive. And when I got out here, I found that LA felt somehow a little more conducive to writing. I wrote “The Girlfriend Game” in LA a few months after I got here, when I was sleeping on someone’s couch, in between sublets. TV writing is only all-consuming when you’re doing it, and you don’t work year-round. I’ve had about five months off between each of the shows that I’ve worked on.
What about you? Would you go back to Austin? Do you find that living in certain places is more conducive to writing than others? Do you like to write during storms? I heard a writer say that when he was having trouble with the scene, he would as an experiment just change the weather.
AMELIA GRAY: I just saw a guy lying down on the 110, trying to pick up something big that had fallen under his car, maybe part of his axle? That guy is definitely dead now.
I’ve never lived in New York but I always get this oppressive feeling looking out of the train as it passes over a bridge or similar, wondering how many hundreds of writers have looked at this exact view in the past week, how impossible it would be to have any kind of unique response among numbers like that.
Austin and LA feel similar in terms of daily writing routine, though now I don’t have a window in my office so my characters aren’t looking out windows very much anymore. I don’t think I’d go back to Austin. I miss my friends. I’d like to move out of this building sometime and find an office with a window again.
I have very little experience writing during storms. I’d rather watch them, I think, or cook food. I wish it would storm. The sky out there is a blue that looks like it was squeezed out from a deeper blue. I need to write a little every morning without taking more than a day off at a time, so the afternoon is usually free for other work. I’m aggregating tech news for a living these days.
Do you have an elevator pitch for The Girlfriend Game?
NICK ANTOSCA: The elevator pitch – what a phrase – for The Girlfriend Game is that it’s a collection of stories with a lot of sex, strange dogs, missed connections, severe injuries, aliens, clowns, and complicated human relationships.
I’m walking down the street near Hancock Park right now. I just found a parking spot and it was miraculous. Two drunk men are screaming at another man who’s stealing flowers from the outside of the shop.
I didn’t know you were aggregating news for a tech site for a living now. I feel like you’ve had more (particularly in the sense of, a greater number) interesting day jobs than I’ve had. I wish I could say I dug graves or something. I did once work in a rare book library. I never did any work beyond the tiniest bit of shelving. My boss was writing a book about Sacco and Vanzetti and he never did any work either. I discovered a set of beautiful clothbound Japanese art books somewhere deep in the library and I spent days studying them. I couldn’t read a word, of course. I just looked at the paintings. That was about 10 years ago, maybe. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.
Do you think far into the future? Imagine what you’ll be like, where you’ll be, etc.? When I think into the future, seems really difficult to envision more than a year or two ahead.
AMELIA GRAY: Man, cut “complicated human relationships” from that pitch and I think you’ve got something. I’ll send over the bag of money with the dollar sign on it post-haste.
I guess “interesting day jobs” is a state of mind; tech news is drudgery. It’s a priority of mine to have the kind of work that allows me the leisure to write when I want to write, and so I’m sometimes working harder and earning less than I otherwise would in something stable. Neither of us have particularly stable jobs, although I imagine every show you and Ned work on is a bullet point in your favor on the old resume.
Times are a little tough over here but I did just find a piece of tofu in my leftover soup. I like the idea of working in a rare book library. Did your boss ever publish that book about Sacco & Vanzetti?
When I try to think into the future I feel like a dog looking down a dark hallway. You know? I can’t picture it. My biggest goal is to avoid as much as possible of the regret which creeps into people’s lives and expresses itself in fury/malaise directed toward other people, particularly toward people writing tech news or whatever. Not having too many expectations in life is maybe the secret to it.
Do you look into the future? 10-year plan? Did you know that your profile picture is currently expressing itself as a mastiff? Here’s a picture:
NICK ANTOSCA: That grey dog is some sort of demon or apparition that roams around my neighborhood and occasionally stands guard outside my front door – guarding the house from me. It is unkillable. I once saw it fall off a cliff – no joke.
I love dogs. I love writing about dogs. A bunch of the stories in The Girlfriend Game have strange dogs in them.
You know, I used to eat a lot of tofu, but then I heard it’s bad for you. On Teen Wolf, the other writers were super health-conscious, and one of them said tofu is hard for your body to metabolize or something. So I stopped eating it. Now I eat peanut butter and blueberries for a snack. Seems healthy, right??
Nope, there’s no plan in my head for the future. If I try to imagine it, it looks big and indistinct, like a black glacier.
Okay, one last question. Is there something you really, really want to write but haven’t yet? (You don’t have to say what it is.)
AMELIA GRAY: It’s definitely not a mastiff. I can’t figure out what it is. Like a great dane boxer mix with cropped ears? I’m envious of people who have the ability to recognize dog breeds. I like dogs okay, certain dogs. Dogs show up five or six times in the thing I’m working on now, and no cats.
Tofu is two thousand years old. It is a staple in many nations. It is fine in moderation. Peanut butter is good too though. Source: My mom is a fitness director at a YMCA.
I’m working on a couple things right now, maybe three or four distinct projects, and they all feel very much like, finally I am writing this thing, though at the same time I wouldn’t say they were individually goals prior. I keep discovering the thing I want to write about as I’m writing. But I don’t think I’ve got a long poem brewing or anything. What about you? Manuscript illuminated w/ images of that dog?
NICK ANTOSCA: There is actually a horror novel I want to write about colonists on a planet that has been overrun by packs of wild dogs descended from the dogs of the earliest settlers. Unfortunately, the title is taken. On a happier note, I just bought that book.
The Sacco & Vanzetti book, like so many, remains unpublished.
NICK ANTOSCA is currently engaged on JJ Abrams’ new TV show, Believe. He has also written for MTV’s Teen Wolf, the ABC military drama series, Last Resort, and other major broadcast shows. In addition, he’s the author of three award-winning books that earned him critical praise as “psychological horror’s rising star.” Nick’s newest book is The Girlfriend Game (Word Riot Inc./June 2013).
AMELIA GRAY is a writer living in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of AM/PM (Featherproof Books), Museum of the Weird (Fiction Collective 2), and THREATS (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Her writing has appeared in American Short Fiction, McSweeney’s, DIAGRAM, and Caketrain, among others. For more info, check out www.ameliagray.com.