This post is part of an ongoing interview with author Mark John Isola about his forthcoming book Inky Flesh, so check back for more questions. Once posted, a link following the current Q&A will allow you to click through to read the next question–or begin reading from the first question: Why the title Inky Flesh? Quotes that are reasonably sized and maintain the context of the discussion are permitted for review, interview, academic, and blogging purposes—a link to the web page quoted will help maintain context.
Here is the current question:
Cal: Let’s return to a point you made earlier. You said: “If you don’t feel it, you don’t write it.” This does not sound schlocky, as you said earlier, but this is the kind of thing one hears from writers and artists generally. What does it mean to “feel” a story?
MJ: This is somewhat hard to explain, but I think this is a fairly common experience for artists of all kinds. Describing this feeling often sounds airy fairy or like ego masturbation, so ugh. But, the fact is there is a certain feeling I either get or not for a story. Stories come to me constantly, but my feeling toward them is not constant. This other feeling is something like desire or attraction. It is a certain knowingness. If I feel it, I write, and I never write without it. I do not even think I could, for there would be no flow. When I have tried to do this, just to get a story written, what I produce is not very good and gets deleted. I have learned over time to only write with this feeling—to write with the flow, if you will. This is not at all a prolific stance, not by a long shot. But, what it produces is way more worth writing and reading.
Here’s one way to express how writing works for me: it’s like that moment during a first date when you know you want a second one—or you feel open for a kiss—or not. It’s that simple. You feel it, or you don’t, but either way, an important decision is made. The second dates refused are the stories I do not pursue. This decides whether or not I write a story.
Cal: You do not write these other stories, but you still have the idea for them–and just let them go?
MJ: Yes, and that would be the first date, but alas, not every first date leads to a second and not every idea leads to a story that should be written. In our era of producing two novels or such a year, I know this sounds very strange–almost counterintuitive, but self-editing is an important part of a writer and artist’s development of their craft.
Cal: So, is it fair to say your relationship to sex writing might be understood in terms of sex?
MJ: Whatever the exact metaphor, I imagine this is how it works for many writers. Writing is a very intimate thing and so is reading. However, writing fiction can also be a rather unromantic romance, if you put it in terms of love and sex, for it is much more akin to the work of a long-term relationship than the relatively easy passion of an affair. And, long-term relationships require much more work than a one-night stand. So, I am not exactly sure the metaphor works, but yeah, actually, as I think more about it, pleasing a partner sexually can often be about patience and pain, so maybe the sex metaphor fits better than I might at first think.
Click through to the next question: What gay authors influenced you?