Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Interview with the author of "Drip" Andrew Montlack

Lilaina from on Writing had the opportunity to discuss all the lovely things about writing with Andrew Montlack, author of "Drip"

Drip: A Gothic Bromance by [Montlack, Andrew]

"A hand wearing a fancy watch parted the office blinds, and J.D. felt nauseous with despair: suddenly he knew—even though he could not explain how—that all of his mojo had been permanently taken away."

J.D. and George: thick as thieves since the fourth grade. J.D., the troublemaker, the stud: the alpha. George, the sidekick, the misfit: the loser. Upon graduating college, J.D. has convinced the only job creator in rusty Middlestop to hire them. BrewCorp, the hot new coffee and retail chain, is offering a vice presidency to the employee with the boldest plan for growth, and J.D. is determined to be the guy. When not sleeping with co-workers, he hatches his pitch for a one-of-a kind data pipeline. He is unbeatable--until George grabs the promotion. Now J.D. wants answers. His quest to find them—and to deal with the monstrous truth—is the subject of indie filmmaker Andrew Montlack's wry debut novel, which features the same biting satire that made his mockumentary, The Devil's Filmmaker, a cult classic.

What inspired you to start writing?
It wasn’t a single What, it was a group of Who’s.  My grandmother, who wrote children’s short stories and musical lyrics—she also composed and played the piano—read to my sister and me all the time.  My mom and dad read to us also.  My grandmother had music and prose in her bones, and that informed what I—at age 5, 6, 7, 8—fell in love with about life and the world.  Also, like a lot of kids, I was also falling in love with certain movies that were on TV regularly in the 70’s—The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—and my grandmother and parents were reading me the original novels, especially when my sister and I were home sick with a strep throat and wanting comfort; I would be listening through a fever daze, thinking about the differences between what was on the page and what I remembered on the screen (e.g. Veruca Salt’s meeting her fate in a room full of squirrels versus a room full of golden-egg-laying geese).  This wondering about which version was more authentic got my young brain started on the problem of storytelling.  The other Who was a great children’s playwright named Aurand Harris, who visited my elementary school when I was in the fourth grade and ran a dramatic writing workshop with my class.  That was a big, big deal to me: having a grownup in the classroom not lecture me to practice my math flashcards more often or read some textbook out loud and summarize it but instead invite me to express myself creatively, freely.  That was better than Tollhouse cookies!

What is your favourite genre to write? Why?

There’s no one particular genre; quite the contrary, I’m sort of inclined to mix it up, the key being to have a strong dramatic basis for the story, even if it’s a comedy, otherwise I have no way to tell if it’s working.  That said, there will probably always be an absurdist element in my work; absurdism, which can be a form of satire, is useful for criticizing whatever it is in the world that you can’t, or shouldn’t, get your head around; I enjoy its childlike quality, particularly when it butts up against a bureaucratic or social norm.  I remember watching Robert Altman’s MASH a few years back and trying to figure out why it tickled me so much—why it worked; what I realized was that it was fueled by magical realism, in the form of absurdist leads.  Hawkeye, Trapper, and Duke were basically trickster superheroes, doing what no one actually could do within their system: they were able to poke fun at it over and over and over, with no consequences to themselves; that’s absurd and impossible in the real world, but it felt inspiring to see them do it.

What kinds of sources do you take inspiration from?

Cinema is usually percolating in the back of my mind.  I loved the biting humour of anti-establishment films like The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy, but I’m also a child of the 70’s and 80’s, so there’s a special place in my heart for films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Return of the Jedi, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  There are also books and authors I like to revisit or think about when I want to be inspired: Robert Cormier, Roald Dahl.  I’ve read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus three or four times.  I recently came back to John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces.  Probably, I go back to the stuff I watched and read as a kid because that’s how I strip back some of the callused “grownup” layers that get in the way of creative expression.

What does your writing process look like? Did it take you a while to develop?

Drip took me quite a long time.  One reason was that I originally developed it as a screenplay that I would direct—my background is in indie film.  Eventually, I had to shelve it and get on with my life.  I came back to it hoping to incorporate some of the production concept art I had commissioned into a graphic novel; I realized that it made more sense to just adapt it into a straight novel.  Going back to the original screen story development, that started on dozens of 3x5 cards, with themes, characters, plot points, lines of dialogue.  I envy writers who can set pen to paper on page one and crank out the story sequentially, but for me the process is a lengthy honing and discovering, which results in a basic outline, an in-depth outline, a lengthy story treatment, a separate document filled with research notes, and finally, after going back and forth between all of those, a screenplay or novel.  There is also a lot of walking, pacing, staring into space, and chocolate binging. 

Do you take criticism hard or do you have a thick skin? Have you ever received criticisms that you felt were unjustified or too harsh? Are you your worst critic?

I take criticism quite well, it’s just that I can’t write anything or hold a coherent thought for six weeks afterwards!  Kidding aside, I suffer heartbreak every time.  One thing that’s helped me is that I’ve learned to solicit criticism starting at the earliest outline, as soon as I’ve run it through my own personal gauntlet of revisions and edits, that way it’s early enough in the process that I haven’t gotten too invested in the fundamentals.  Next, I plan out a session, inviting a few close friends, and I brace for it by reminding myself that the point is not to get a lot of validation; the point is to make it good.  I try to go into a critique session like a pro, saying, “Give it to me straight; I need to hear what’s not working.”  When I first pitched Drip to my friends, it was properly shredded to bits.  The outline wasn’t working, and if the basic outline wasn’t there, investing a lot of time in the prose wasn’t going to fix it.  I took a long break from it; for me that was the right thing to do, because what I needed was recharge and get inspired to come up with a totally new outline that could incorporate the themes and some of the characters of the previous attempt.  It takes time.

To learn more about the author, click here

To purchase "Drip" click here. 

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