Would you Rather be a Pirate or a Ninja? A Drunkerview with William R. Soldan

1. First off: is deep-dish a pizza or casserole?

I’ll go with pizza. I could certainly see how someone might argue casserole, though. And they might even be able to persuade me, but for me, well, I can still eat deep-dish with my hands, so I say it’s pizza. Sure, I could eat a casserole with my hands, too—hell, I probably have on at least one occasion—but all these things really come down to, how we view just about everything, are our associations. And I associate deep-dish pizza with pizza. I mean, it’s just semantics. Is a spliff a cigarette or a joint? I suppose the argument went on too long one night and someone, baked out of their gourd, finally decided on a third option. Who knows. Maybe we need a third option for this one. Maybe just deep-dish. Frankly, I don’t give a hoot what it’s called. Either way I’m gonna eat way too much of it and regret my life choices for an hour or two.

2. Your piece that you wrote for us about Godzilla was so damn good! I gotta know: are you a Godzilla fan in general? And who ya got in a fight: Godzilla or King Kong?

Thanks, man. It really was serendipitous that I discovered The Daily Drunk just before remembering I had a strange but sorta humorous little piece that I honestly never expected to send anywhere, since humor isn’t exactly my wheelhouse. Typically, if there’s humor in my work, it’s fleeting. The Godzilla piece was something I wrote in an online Bending Genres workshop led by Jonathan Cardew back in the spring or early summer. Jonathan’s a terrific writer and does humor better than just about anyone I know personally. (And hearing him read his work with his British accent makes the often outrageous content that much better.) Anyway, I was toying with some of his prompts and figured I should make an effort to write outside my comfort zone, or at least craft something that was vastly different than what most people have probably come to expect from me. It was an experiment. But as I revised and tweaked it, I was having a blast, and I thought, This ain’t bad, might even make the cut, so I rolled the dice and submitted it. I’m grateful you enjoyed it so much and gave it home.

Now to answer the question you actually asked (apologies for the digression): No, not a huge fan. Though I do remember watching my mom’s old collection of Godzilla VHS tapes as a kid and enjoying them. What kid doesn’t love giant reptiles and destruction on a grand scale? But as much as I love the concept of Godzilla, I’m team Kong. I have so many more vivid memories of watching those films as a kid, and I always thought King Kong was just cooler. And I think, strictly from an anatomical perspective, Kong is just objectively stronger, or at least more agile and prepared to scrap. Though honestly, I could get down with destroying a city with both of them. Talk about a crew! 

3. Tell me about your latest poetry chapbook, So Fast, So Close with Close to the Bone. How did you go about putting this together? Did you initially set out to write a poetry book?

I didn’t initially set out to write the book as it is now, no. Several years ago, while in grad school, I took a Craft & Theory course focused on Hybrid Literature, and while there, I began working on what became the second section of the collection (there are three sections). It was originally going to be a full-length poetic memoir of sorts, but being that it’s written exclusively in the 2nd-person (or what I’ve recently begun referring to as 1st-person incognito), and makes use of future tense quite a bit, I decided a full-length book in that form might get exhausting, both for me and for potential readers. But during that semester, I was also exploring travel writing, flash and micro fiction/creative non-fiction, prose poetry, and other forms that straddle a margin between two or more forms. Liminal spaces. Gray areas. I love work that blurs boundaries and defies categorization, and I think this book does that as a whole, though since every form within it makes use of poetry as the vehicle for expression, we’ll call it poetry. (I’ll add, for people who might be interested in getting a copy, despite how it’s been marketed, it’s really a full-length collection, so you’ll be getting a lot more than a chapbook’s-worth of content.)

Anyway, that class I took was probably the one that stimulated me creatively and stuck with me the most, in terms of opening my perception of what writing can be. Short forms like flash and micro fiction and poetry are great places to do things that might not fly in a more traditional length story. So in So Fast, So Close, the first section of poems is a travelogue drawn from a period about twenty years ago, when I and my now-wife were living out of a van and pinballing across America and Canada. It was also intended to be its own full-length collection, but as I found myself also working on a series of poems that eventually became the third section of the book, which focuses on fathers and sons and the challenges that come with reconciling your own unstable childhood with your new role as a father, I realized there were threads, or themes, that carried through what I thought were three disparate projects. That’s when I decided to see how they might work as one single collection. I’d briefly considered trying to publish the sections as three separate chapbooks, but I liked how they fit together, creating a full-length book with a lot of variety but also a sense of cohesion, so I’m glad I didn’t split them back up. It’s overall a book about growing up and fucking up and trying to figure out how the hell you ended up where you are, when by most accounts you never should have made it this far.   

4. Do you find it easier to write poetry or fiction? Do you like bouncing back and forth between genres?

I don’t find any of them easy, that is to say a breeze or a walk in the park, as much as I love all of it. I never have a shortage of ideas and usually I can knock out a draft without much turmoil, but when it comes to being honest with yourself and making something that’s worth people’s time (after all, regardless of our claims of why we write—compulsion being my number one driving force—in the end, we want others to read our work and enjoy it, to know we’ve put all our effort into it for them), that’s always a pain in the ass, and it never won’t be, regardless of the form/genre I’m working in. And yes, I love bouncing back and forth between things. I try to always have a variety of genres going at once, namely fiction and poetry, but also the hybrid stuff that’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that, because if I don’t feel like I’m firing on all cylinders with one project, I can almost always jump into a different one and get something done that I’m at least marginally happy with. Truthfully, I rarely think of genre or form when I’m writing. I only begin to question what it is when it comes time to try and publish, since obviously I need to know what I’m passing it off as. But until then, I just write. Of course I usually know if it’s a “story” or a “poem” from the get go, but beyond that, I try not to concern myself with its categorization out of the gate.

5. Ok, top 5 rock bands of all-time. go!

Man, you’re really trying to get me to lose sleep aren’t you. Something I get too little of to begin with. Haha. Seriously, though. I could obsess over this for far too long, so, I’ll approach it from the standpoint of influence on subsequent generations. These aren’t necessarily my top five. And there could be debate about whether some of these are even rock, because they could easily fit into other sub-categories. So to clarify, the reason I choose these five is because none of the other bands I could possibly list would exist if not for the influence of one or more of these bands. Also, we’re talking rock here. If the question was musicians/bands/songwriters of all time, my list would be radically different. Anyway, based on their impact and overall influence on rock, I’d say: Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and of course, David Bowie. 

There’s probably a lot of eye rolling going on right now, and that’s okay, but there’s no argument that can sincerely deny that any and all of the rock music of the last half century was influenced by the styles/songwriting of these artists (and yes, I know Elvis didn’t write his own songs, but as far as his influence—in fashion and bravado especially—even on the other artists on this short list, he made an indelible mark on the collective psyche. However, if I were to swap out any of these choices at the last minute, I’d replace Elvis with Chuck Berry, because he actually did write his own songs (some, anyway) and is arguably just as influential if not more on the course of Rock & Roll as The King was. 

Of course, if I wanted to dig deeper and start really plucking names from the myriad sub-genres of rock, I could start rattling off lots of artists. But if I ever expect to finish this interview, well, I’ll spare you and your readers that analysis.

6. What are you currently working on? Give us the deets.

Well, after So Fast, So Close releases, I’ve got two more titles slated for 2021, a collection of crime and noir stories in the spring with Shotgun Honey called Houses Burning and Other Ruins and my debut novel Undone Valley in the fall with Cowboy Jamboree Press, who published my recent collection Lost in the Furrows back in October. 

As for current projects, it’s been a slow year for me in terms of generating new material—shit’s been chaotic and mentally I haven’t been in a place that’s conducive to creating anything long form. That said, I’m slowly working on what will probably be a chapbook of poems drawn from the year and a half I was incarcerated, a little over a decade ago. I also had a second novel I was about 50 pages into, but I set it aside and never really felt compelled to return to it. I might still try to salvage some of the plotlines, for other potential projects, because there are things I like about what I’ve written so far. I’ve recently gotten an idea for another novel and have a decent picture of how I want it to work. There are some gaps, though, and besides the opening few pages, I haven’t put much down besides a workable plot summary, which will likely change dramatically if/when I get a draft written. I’m reluctant to talk specifics, lest I unwittingly sabotage it before I really get started. And there’s a decent number of poems and short stories in various stages of completion that I’d like to get done, something to try and put out there while I work on the longer projects. It’s also been a slow year for me in terms of submitting/publishing individual pieces, though in the end, I still managed to land a handful of publications, so at least I’m still trudging forward, despite the flaming pit of quicksand that is 2020. 

7. Finally: Would you rather be a pirate or a ninja? Cite where necessary.

Now this one’s easy: Ninja all day long. Sure, pirates got the style, but to be an assassin that lurks in the shadows and gets to wield all kinds of cool weaponry? C’mon. No contest. Ninja is the one thing I desperately wanted to be as a kid (besides an artist) that I still kinda want to be. Damn, that would be so badass.

William R. Soldan is a writer from Youngstown, Ohio, and the author of the story collections In Just the Right Light and Lost in the Furrows. His debut poetry collection, So Fast, So Close, is forthcoming from Close to the Bone Publishing in December of  2020. He can be found on Twitter @RustWriter1 and the other social media platforms, as well as at williamrsoldan.com if you’d like to connect.

Shawn Berman (@sbb_writer) runs The Daily Drunk.

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