This week, I interviewed award-winning poet Travis Naught about his foray into fiction with his new novel Joyride and how he develops his craft.
How do you get inspired to write?
I generally write as a form of self-therapy. It is important for me to feel productive, and as a quadriplegic, there are several hurdles to overcome in this struggle. Historically, I’m a poet, but once I felt like the material was becoming a rehash of everything I’d written before, I started listening to stories within the voices chattering away in my brain and decided to give them further substance in prose. It’s still therapeutic for me to write, because now I’m actively taking part in the world as a published author, but it’s less self-centered.
Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
Joyride started as an unknown commodity. I sat down in front of the computer to write a novel without any pretense as to where it might go. Jack Kerouac is one of my biggest writing influences, so I adopted his method of automatic writing to help my story along. My prose is different than his, and about 35,000 words in, the ending became clear to me, so then I started directing my characters in the appropriate direction. The ride took me 28 days, originally, but three major rounds of content and copy editing turned this into a several months long project over the span of a few years.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
Write. Put words on paper. Don’t feel like you have to name your style or genre. Most of what I write is called poetry because that’s what short sentences and multiple linebreaks are called, but I didn’t know that when I was writing them originally. I just thought I was putting thoughts on paper… It never occurred to me people might actually want to read them! And that’s the other piece of advice: Someone will want to read whatever you put on paper! It might take a lifetime, or even several, for your audience to discover your words, but it will happen.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Well, I don’t do it for the money (because so far there hasn’t been much of that) and I haven’t hooked up with any fans yet (you know, “hooked up”), so the next best thing is simply having the validation of a worldwide peer group of authors. Spokane, where I live near, is blessed to have a thriving community of writers that are wonderfully supportive of each other… In fact, I’m headed to a reading soon (applicable whenever you are reading this interview, as long as I still live in Spokane)!
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I’m a big believer of not believing in writers block. For those times when I am feeling creatively stalled, I write letters. For those times when I don’t want to write a letter but I am also needing to get creatively unplugged, I write a grocery list. For those times when nothing coherent wants to come out, I write incoherent shit… Just gotta keep the pencil moving. Doesn’t matter if what comes out is good or bad. We are not allowed to judge that for ourselves, anyway.
What is your current book about?
Joyride centers around two sets of main characters. Garrett and Tammi are on a camping trip in northeastern New Mexico and attempt to rekindle their marriage that may already be burned out. A series of unfortunate accidents forces a lot of emotionality to the surface, and the couple surprisingly comes out headed in a very positive direction they are both excited for. Harker, an 18-year-old senior in high school, convinces his single mother, Eloise, to get out of town after an accident turns his life upside down. She hands over the decision-making to her son, and they promptly head toward the Pacific Ocean. Inevitably, the storylines reconnect for what is hoped to be a memorable ending!
What book/movie/etc. is it comparable to?
Nothing, hopefully. My stated goal, in a personalized epigraph, was to come up with something new. I’m not bold enough to say I ever believed it could happen, but Joyride did end up blending several genres and styles of writing. I’m proud of the fact that I can’t direct readers to other, like books.
What are you working on now?
It’s been three years since I started Joyride, and it’s about time for me to think about another novel. I have hundreds of poems written since my first book, The Virgin Journals, that I would also like to pare down into a publishable manuscript. Maybe some sort of memoir… I’m always writing, so we’ll see what project bubbles to the surface first! Hopefully something.
Where can readers go for more?
Check out naughtapoet.blogspot.com for more writing by me. Mostly there are poems, but there are also stories and reviews of other people’s work! Make sure and follow me through Facebook.com/TravisLaurenceNaught and @NaughtaPoet on Twitter.