Interview with T.D. Badyna, author of Flick

Publisher: Whistle-Bit Books

Publication Date: June 17, 2013

Order Links:  Amazon

Author Bio: T.D. Badyna was born in Toledo, Ohio, received a West Point appointment, but went west instead, worked for six years on ranches, in kitchens, oil fields, coal mines, construction sites and at age twenty-four gave education a go, but neither he nor the program stuck, and he went on to earn his keep as a technical writer, then a journalist, published a few poems, stories, so on – none of which stuck either, and he became a tradesman, a journeyman bricklayer and stonemason, working seven years with a team of masonry artists, two for Ohio Building Restoration, a year in Appalachia solo rebuilding an 18th century stone farmhouse, so on, New York City to Portland, Oregon, Long Island’ east end to Montana’s high plains. He lays brick and stone still, lives, as much as anywhere, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Flick is his first novel.

Interview: Q. Please tell us about your current release.

A. Flick is a story about a disappearing American archetype, the drifter. Having lived that life, I can tell you there are not many decent accounts of what it’s like. There are not many recent accounts at all, and of what there are, the writer, to me, seemed to be writing mere variation on old cliches. One of these, for example, is the past littered with women. Yet, if one thinks about it, one would guess that there had to be a kind of school or boot camp or apprenticeship where one accumulated these past women. Truth is different. Men do not – not men worth hearing from – engage with women to accumulate a past. And one of the notables about Flick is that the story takes him backwards from age twenty-two, when he is become the real drifting deal through those relationships others dismiss as “past.” In each one, in different ways, he seeks release from his drifting life. There is hope and desire and contradicting attractions and all that at the beginning of each of the four or five, each of whom is a living woman, distinct and with her own contradicting desires. The book is worth reading just for that, though there is much else to the story. It is also worth reading for its depiction of a hoi polloi masculine sensibility that is neither soft nor macho nor jackass and not much found in popular representations. If readers are curious to find out more, it’s not too hard.

Q. How did writing this book affect you?

A. I am not a humble person, but writing Flick absolutely humbled me, humbled me at how hard I had to work, how much crap I had to edit from my writing, how much rewriting and rewriting I had to do, how easy it was for me to cheat, take the easy way, how I yet, despite all effort, had the instinct to pander to readers’ proclivities. There was that and it was incredibly humbling. There was, also, the pride and confidence I got from enduring, persevering until I got it right.

Q. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to writing?

A. Yes, but it wasn't a journey. It was a moment, a Saturday afternoon in April, senior year in high school. I was on my bed, reading after track practice, probably Sports Illustrated. I still recall the cool of the quilt, the open window, the green rain three days long and soft. My mother came home from her shopping and had for me a gift, a set of four old books, red, from the Modern Library: The World’s Greatest Thinkers. She, no doubt, think her West Point-bound son could use a little humanizing before becoming a soldier. Out of obligation, I skimmed a few of the selections from Epictetus, Bacon, Bergson, so on, not too many, not too much, before catching the opening lines of Emerson’s “Self-Reliance.” The words instantly burned into me so much they are at my ready recall even now.  “... To believe your own thought, to believe what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men – that is genius. ….In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts. They come back to us with a certain alienated majesty...” Within a half hour I knew I wasn't going to West Point, that somehow I would live such that my private thoughts were worth expressing and would return to others, not me, with that alienated majesty. It took a while, decades, a lot of wrong turns and all that, but I never wavered from the conviction I felt that long-ago Saturday, no matter the battering it took, and when I got there, I was willing to sacrifice everything to express it.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

A. Easy question. Thinking that friends, family and lovers from the present and past will see themselves in my characters. I agonize over this.

Q. Do you have a musical playlist you listen to while writing? If so, what kind of music?

A. I don’t have a specific playlist and don’t listen too much to music while writing. When I sit down to write, first thing, often enough I’ll play a piece of music, usually jazz, though Debussy I like for this, others, too. But I pretty quickly either tune the sounds out or find they are irritating me and I shut it off.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

A. I keep a pad of legal paper next to my laptop and sketch out in longhand my sentences before I type them. I do this though an observer would note but the vaguest of relations between what is on the pad and what goes on the screen.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

A. I have several hundred pages of detailed sketches done for a second novel, probably a more commercial one. I don’t want to talk much about it, but will say that the file folder is labeled Benevolent Billionaires, though that’s misleading by now and won’t be the book’s title. I’ll also say that after fifteen intense months living inside Flick, which is to say the world of the under twenty-four, I’m burning to write about adults.

Q. What are you currently reading?

A. A Tom Clancy novel. Not my usual, but that’s what I’m reading. I can see his appeal, but I doubt I’ll finish.

Q. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

A. I can only answer this by restricting it to living authors and then naming three: Mario Vargas Llosa, Milan Kundera and Julian Barnes. All three have written great and celebrated novels, but it’s in their less famous works I often find a directness of speech and narration, a genuineness to their expression that gives me the feeling I have spent friendly time in their company.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).

A. After twenty years of full-sized pick-up trucks, I have now a black Volvo station wagon, though I don’t expect to keep it long.

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!

A. At fifteen I ran in a nothing, local fifty-mile race and finished third, and the following year, the two who had finished ahead of me were not entered, and I lined up expecting to win. Also lining up was a middle-aged, goofy-looking guy who at the gun took off like a rabbit and quickly disappeared around the bends of the five-mile parkland loop. I was in the lead group and made fun of the guy, how we’d be passing his wore-out bones within ten miles. After twelve, thirteen miles, he was yet nowhere in sight and I got nervous and took off to find him. I ran ever faster, a pace I knew I could not sustain, but I thought once I caught him, I could ease up. Nearing the twenty-five mile mark, he was still nowhere in sight and I was doing all I could to remain on my feet and not give in to the urge to retch my guts out. And about then, the old goof passed me, lapped me, five miles ahead, and I was done and went home miserably defeated. The next day, I read in the paper that the race had been won by Park Barner, from Erie, Pennsylvania, world-record holder at 50 and a 100 miles. Such was racing in days before the Internet, a sixteen-year-old dope thinking in all sincerity he could run down maybe the greatest ultra marathoner of all time.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

A. Yes. Go to Amazon and “look inside” at my novel’s first few pages, and if you like the voice, like a writer speaking to you without storytelling gimmicks or literary conceits, give the book a try, paperback, e-book, Kindle’s lending library. I worked very hard to be able to write an ambitious and quite fictitious novel like it was a narrative email sent to a small group of intimate friends.

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1 comment:

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