March 13, 2015

Interview with Ted Korsmo, Author of WAYZATA

Ted Korsmo was born in Alexandria, Virginia, but that is neither here nor there; his parents whisked him away from that place so he could spend his formative years in the arctic climes of Fargo, North Dakota (yes, that Fargo), and later Minneapolis, Minnesota. After high school, what can only be defined as kismet brought him acceptance into the NYU film program, a decision which calls that institution's status as an elite mainstay of cinematic erudition into question. Upon graduating Korsmo moved to Los Angeles, leaving behind a woman who loved him and his favorite city for better weather and a grasping, superficial existence. Korsmo has since eked out a living (if you can call it such), as a film and television editor. He writes and records music under the apt moniker "The Ted Korsmo Experiment" and is currently working on his fifth album and a collection of short stories and a novella. He generates this wealth of creative material not because he finds it easy or even particularly rewarding, but rather because he is woefully under-employed and needs to find unique ways to kill the days.

*What would you be doing right now if you were not an author? 
As I am nowhere near able to support myself writing, I am, by default, still doing it: I am a film/TV editor (cutting visuals, not editing copy), and will probably continue to do so until the time comes when I can dedicate myself wholly to writing. That, of course, may never happen, but I find editing to be a creative and technical challenge, and therefore more or less rewarding. But writing fiction and writing and recording music have always been what I am most passionate about.
*5 years ago: what were you doing? 
Mm, this question is a little existentially disheartening for me. For all intents and purposes, I am navigating the same water on the same skiff as I was five years ago, and am not expecting the quartermaster to shout “Land ho!” anytime soon. On the bright side, perhaps I am a creature of habit, and WANT to languish. Yeah, that’s the ticket—I suffer from Acute Adjustment Disorder, and drop immediately into the fetal position if I sense change on the horizon.
*Do you have a certain writing ritual? 
Sure do! Putter around with the ablutions; get coffee around the corner; take a head-clearing ten-minute constitutional walk up and down the block (which is good for people-watching); return home, check e-mails and see if my book or any of my musical albums have sold (usually not); READ for perhaps an hour, which I can’t stress enough is THE most important thing to do to get a writer’s creative juices flowing. Writers are readers. Then, once I feel that I have successfully procrastinated long enough, I sit down and start writing: it may be on a novel, a short story, a musical track—whatever. I tend to focus in twenty-minute bursts, and then take a five-minute break, usually by doing more reading. I don’t usually set a goal for myself in terms of “how many words can I get out today?” because the quantity of words has nothing to do with the quality. SO much of my time spent writing is actually RE-writing; going over the same sentences over and over and over, reworking them, retooling, trying to find the exact right way to tell the story, or even craft a sentence. It can be tedious, but if you ultimately come up with something great and it now exists forever in the universe, isn’t that worth the effort?
*What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? 
“This didn’t pan out for me.”
“This is doomed by a lack of discipline and attention to detail.”
“This story is about nothing and goes nowhere.”

Perhaps this question is not asking for direct quotes from people who have read some of my work. I think it’s funny that I remember quotes like these specifically, but none of the positive kudos I have received.

The truth is I think you have to go with your gut as far as your writing goes. Every author, whether he or she writes airport-novel dross, vampire-series dreck, or instead leans more toward esoteric, difficult prose (I’m thinking Faulkner, Joyce, Cormac McCarthy, and even Gordon Foster Wallace), can suffer harsh criticism. But, these very different types of authors can also reach and have a direct affect upon millions of people if they’re lucky. That’s what I want to do. And let’s not forget that a bad review means somebody has actually READ your work. Mission accomplished.

Just because a novel or author is popular doesn’t mean it or he is any good, and frequently what is most popular appeals to the lowest common denominator.
*Is there an author you'd like to meet? 
I’ll assume the person has to be alive? Cormac McCarthy, but I’d settle for Philip Roth, Don DeLillo, or Thomas Pynchon.

If allowed to have lunch or a beer with ANY writer, living or dead, my first choice would be Raymond Chandler.

*Biggest writing pet peeve? 
How LONG it takes to write really well, and how fast some authors can churn it out (though, admittedly, I find most writers who CAN churn it out aren’t very good.) My reading pet peeve would be people who say “I love books, and read a book a day, probably two to three hundred a year.” What kind of books are those?
* Do you read other's reviews of your books? 
Unfortunately, yes, which is probably not the best idea. It’s a zero-sum game. The fact is, you ask one thousand people what they think of the merits of a single sentence I have written, I would get a thousand different answers. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Some people go for “easy” or “simple” writing—i.e. if they have to look up a word they don’t already know, they don’t like it. But it’s really a matter of taste. Personally, I LIKE to have to look up new words when I’m reading something, which is not to say I like to sit around and read medical journals, law reviews, or physics textbooks…

Fave Color 
Everyone looks good in black.
Fictional Character you'd like to spend the day with? 
Holden Caulfield. He and I would get along fine.
Philip Marlowe
Konstantin Levin, but not a day out in the fields

Fave food 
Indian food (dots, not feathers)

Fave song and/or singer 
Impossible question, as they keep changing. John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Ray Davies. These, of course, are singer/songwriters; technically, I think the best female vocalist is Aretha Franklin, and the best male vocalist is Sam Cooke. I’m sure there are a few opera singers out there who might be knocking a lot of people’s socks off, but as a man of the people, I’m limiting my answers to popular music.

To that end, the songs of the singer/songwriters: “A Day In The Life”, “Lithium”, “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”, “The Stranger Song”, “Lola”

Guilty pleasure 

Reality documentary television, shows like “The First 48”, “Ice Road Truckers”, “Alaska State Troopers”, “Life in the Burn Ward” (I made this last one up.)

A detective. A Millionaire. A Millionaire's wife. A mistress.

Hijinks and tragedy ensue.

Set in the late 1930's, our yarn is set in the rural, resort suburb of Minneapolis. Detective Carroll LaRue has quit his badge, picked up stakes and put a haunted past in Hollywood behind him -- after all, his fellow officers on the LAPD kept mistaking him for a perp. LaRue exchanges the hilltop lifestyle and orange groves for a hardscrabble, hand-to-mouth existence in the blue-gray Midwest. Taking photos through windows, even if the people aren't movie stars? It might not be sexy, but it's a living.

"Wayzata" pays homage -- hell, it outright steals -- from the great writers of pulp fiction: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James V. Cain; an intricate, convoluted mystery story full of seedy characters and dialogue sharp enough that you just may have to read a sentence over once or twice to get it. Funny, tough, with short chapters built to be read in airports. And check it: when the movie comes out you can say, "Hey, I read that when it was a book."

Sure you did, smart guy. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm a smartie; I read the book! Loved the authenticity of the genre once I got used to it, and smiled the entire read.........and no, I didn't read it in a day, I dragged it out so that it wouldn't end! I also greatly enjoyed this interview - Ted IS a man of the people; without pretense, honest and interesting, well spoken, handsome and complex. He makes me proud to know his Mother! Sincerely, shoelue1