Name ALEC CIZAK
Age Age is just a number. Mine’s unlisted.
Where are you from INDIANAPOLIS, The Geographic Center of the Universe!
A little about your self `ie your education Family life ect
Currently enrolled in an MFA program in Minnesota. Originally a terrible student. I went back to school when the economy crashed. I also wrote and directed two of the worst feature films ever made.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Full Dark City Press has just released a beautiful edition of my novella MANIFESTO DESTINATION. I am working on so many things right now it’s absurd. One major thing I’m working on is bringing the journal I edit, Pulp Modern, back to a state of respectability. Because I’ve been in school for a while, I think the effort I put into the last two issues was lacking and folks were more than willing to point it out.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing when I was in the fourth grade. I used to make up stories and get in trouble for it. Finally, a friend of the family, we called him Uncle Barrett, even though he wasn’t really an uncle, explained that I was not a liar, that I was, in fact, a storyteller, aka, a writer. I enjoyed writing, so I never questioned the diagnosis.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In the fourth grade! My first ‘official’ story was about a mad scientist who trains a tree to rob banks. I should have known then that the majority of my fiction would revolve around crime.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Necessity. I lied to an agency and told them I had a book and they called my bluff. I had to crank out the rough draft in a week. Best deadline I’ve ever set for myself.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I agree with Lawrence Block, who said the best style is invisible. The style in Manifesto Destination is not invisible. It’s written in a very traditional, hardboiled style, but that was by design. I was mating the language of Chandler with the paranoia of PKD.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It was a title I had been throwing around in my head for several years. I just liked the play on words. When it came time to write the book, that title forced me to generate an appropriate, accompanying story (Roger Corman would be proud!).
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Probably. I don’t want to state any specific message, though, because so many different ideas went into the book that I want the reader to generate his or her own message.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Good question. One major flaw, something that dates the book, is the lack of cell phones in it. When I wrote it in 2001, I didn’t believe for a second Americans would be gullible enough to latch on to cell phones as a biological extension of their own freakin’ hands! Somewhere between the time I wrote the book and early 2002, cell phones seemed to become a mandatory possession, like a toothbrush or shoes.
The drug in the book, Stardust, is hardly realistic at all. The mix I describe in there would probably kill anyone who took it, especially if they slammed it into their blood with a needle. It’s a funny exaggeration that I never bothered to modify.
I think the overall premise, however, that corporations and government agencies want Americans to be as docile as possible, is absolutely realistic.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Manifesto Destination is full of experiences from my own life. So much so that I can’t even discuss it without pissing off people I respect very much (and some I respect very little!).
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Another interesting question. Books that have influenced my LIFE? Tropic of Cancer, without a doubt, taught me that what we American folk consider freedom is nowhere near what a liberated mind thinks of as freedom. A Scanner Darkly, by Phil K. Dick, encouraged me to sober up when I was in my early twenties (a mistake, by the way; if you’re not sober, you’re not missing anything here in sober land!). Both 1984 and A Clockwork Orange influenced my thinking with regards to how fiction can combat tyrannical governments. And anytime I need to smile I’ll pick up something by Bukowski or Hunter S. Thompson.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I don’t know. I learn from every writer I read!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently reading The Last Final Girl, by Stephen Graham Jones.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I don’t know how new they are, but I’ve taken an interest in Steve Weddle’s work after reading his book Country Hardball. I’m always curious to read the work being done in the online community of pulp and genre writers. People bemoan the quality of independent literature, but I seriously doubt it’s any better or worse than the commercial stuff the big publishers put out.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m working on a novella called Daddy Problems that I’m hoping will be ready by the spring. I’m getting back into screenwriting and I’m working on my thesis for my MFA.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The aforementioned Uncle Barrett. Nobody did more to encourage me as a writer as well as a troublemaker.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
For some. It’s getting more and more difficult. The economics aren’t there anymore. This country no longer values dynamic art the way it once did. Nobody wants to spend the money necessary to nurture a vibrant culture of art. It’s not necessary, according to the people who run the Big Show that is America (in fact, it’s dangerous, as good, original art always encourages independent thinking, and independent thinking scares the crap out of our wage-slave masters).
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would. I would work on making the drug Stardust more realistic and I would include, somehow, cell phones. I would also cut down on some of the description of traffic routes in Indianapolis. You could find your way around the city by memorizing some of those passages!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Well, as I stated, the grown-ups started me on this path. The moment I realized I really did want to be a writer, however, came in the seventh grade. At that time I was reading Stephen King and cutting my teeth by imitating him. One night I sat down to bang out a story I had been working up called “The Mailbox.” It was basically a rip-off of Christine, in which a mailbox is abused by three people (for no apparent reason; in the 1980s, storytellers didn’t have to do as much work!), and the mailbox begins writing letters to its owner, instructing him to kill the three guys. Obviously a stupid story, but when I finished the rough (and only) draft, I felt a high I don’t think I’ve felt since then. Maybe it’s like crack-cocaine, I’ve been chasing that high ever since.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Okay. Here’s a passage from one of the last stories in my thesis. The story is called “Fishing with Grandpa.” It’s about an uptight young man named Ben whose grandfather has decided to take him to a brothel for his eighteenth birthday. Ben’s in love with a girl who won’t sleep with him but has convinced him he should get a degree in Women’s Studies. Obviously, young Ben is horrified when he realizes where his grandfather has brought him—
Two waitresses worked the room. Their skirts and aprons were cut so high Ben could see the bottoms of their panties. They wore white blouses, open clear down the front. When he noticed their breasts, free of bras or undershirts, he dropped his eyes, embarrassed. His grandfather nudged his shoulder with his elbow. “How you like them apples?”
“This place is offensive,” he said.
His grandfather chuckled, as though Ben had told a joke.
An older woman, her skirt-length appropriate and her blouse buttoned to the top, emerged from the kitchen behind the empty front counter. Her hair had been dyed blonde, mocking the wrinkles running across her forehead. When she saw his grandfather, she clapped her hands. “Is this the young man you warned us about?”
His grandfather put his arm around him. “One and only,” he said. “Ben, this is Margie. Margie, my grandson, Benjamin Ronin.”
Margie smiled. “Beamer talks about you all the time.”
“This boy’s going to IU,” said his grandfather. “Excuse me, this man. Turned eighteen today.”
“Wonderful,” said Margie. She nodded to them and stepped around the counter. “Let’s send him off proper.”
Ben’s grandfather shoved him towards a door with a round, blacked-out window on top, made him follow Margie through them. He stuck close behind, whistling, “With a Little Help from My Friends.” They made their way through a dark corridor that smelled from trash cans along the walls. Margie led them to a glass door that opened to what seemed to be the lobby of a cheap motel. Behind a caged-booth near the front, an old man with no hair, not even eyebrows, counted stacks of money. A mixture of sweat and other body odors filled the air. Big Band music played on a small jam box in the corner. In the middle of the room, plastic benches formed a ‘U.’ Several men sat on them with girls in lingerie on their laps.
“Jeez, Grandpa.” He stopped walking.
“Happy birthday, Ben.”
Trying to keep his voice low, he said, “This is a whorehouse.”
Margie shot him an angry glance.
“That’s offensive,” said his grandfather.
“That’s offensive?” he said. “These women are being degraded and you take issue with…”
“I thought you were going to college to study women?”
“Excuse me?” said Ben.
“Here’s your chance to get a head start.”
“Women’s Studies—” He didn’t finish.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The most challenging thing is making sure I put in the work on a daily basis. That means writing and reading.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite writer is probably Henry Miller. His best work involves poetic prose that never loses any honesty no matter how aesthetic the language gets. I cannot, however, fail to mention the influence Jim Thompson has had on my work. If you want to write crime fiction, I think Thompson’s books are mandatory reading.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not at this point!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Eric Beetner designed the cover of Manifesto Destination. You don’t have to look at it twice to see he did a hell of a job.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Actually, the hardest part involved keeping my cool while mice and rats roamed the carpet in my crappy apartment in Koreatown. I slept on the floor in those days because I couldn’t afford a bed. It’s lovely, listening to rodents search the ground around you for scraps of junk food while you’re trying to sleep.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that it takes a hell of a lot of work to finish a book, even one written under hurried circumstances. That’s the most important thing anyone should know about writing a book—it’s hard f’ing work.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Study computers or business and write in your spare time. Just like your mother and father probably told you. There is nothing cool or romantic about being a starving artist. Poverty adds absolutely nothing to your work. Get a 9 to 5 and write when you get home. Being a wage-slave will give you all the rage you need to write vital fiction.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Enjoy. Don’t take my work, or anything else in life, too seriously.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies
I play music, though I’m not particularly amazing. I had an old school punk band called Dilaudid that may or may not have died, and I currently play (real) country music with some local Mankato musicians.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching
I mostly watch older movies because, let’s be honest, Hollywood is having trouble making coherent movies these days. As for television, I like some of the cable tv shows that have been getting (warranted) attention over the last decade or so—Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, etc., I actually think the best television is on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. Shows like Aqua Teen and Squidbillies give me a lot of hope with regards to the survival of subversive mass media.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
My favorite meals are Shabu-Shabu and Korean BBQ. However, there is never a time when eggs are not appropriate.
I guess since I’ve been wearing black since I was a teenager I like darker colors.
As for music, I listen to just about everything (again, however, mass produced music today is really awful, so I don’t know too much of what’s going on on the radio—What I have noticed is that a lot of young musicians are rather blatantly imitating older artists without blushing. Not sure what I think of that). My favorite record of all time is “Funhouse,” by the Stooges. Any time I get sick of the world around me, I just put that record on and crank it until someone calls the police.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done ?
I think I would have made a great killer for hire for the mafia or the CIA (or both…).
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? if so what is it?