Name: David James Keaton
Where are you from? Millbury, Ohio.
A little about yourself, `ie your education, family life, etc.
First, I just wanted to be clear I was talking about the first Highlander up there, not the sequels. Anyway, I received my BFA from Bowling Green State University after taking about a decade longer than I should have to finish up. I was painting houses and plumbing and doing twentysome other jobs at the time. I received my MFA from the University of Pittsburgh, where I met my wife. We live in Louisville, Kentucky, where she’s getting her Ph.D at U of L, and I’m teaching composition at Elizabethtown Community College in Elizabethtown. I’m the editor and founder of Flywheel Magazine, the fiction editor of The Heartland Review, and I have about fifty stories in various places – print, online, some in that new e-book sorcery.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My first novel is due out this summer from Broken River Books. It’s been through a couple name changes, but now it’s called The Last Projector. There are a couple intersecting storylines, dealing mostly with a former paramedic turned adult-film director in the twilight of his career, and the details of a mystery surrounding the cover-up of an assault in the back of his ambulance. There’s a lot of other craziness going on, and a ton of ‘80s movie talk
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote my first book in fifth grade, Galactic Grapes, Superworm, and Other Comics (the grapes turned into their own enemies, the ‘Retched Raisins,’ if they battled their foes in the sunlight), and this project was inspired by a desire to avoid actual schoolwork. I was allowed to sit in the hall to draw and bind this book during regular class time. So I loved getting “sent out to the hall,” even though this was usually considered a punishment.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I consider myself more of a typer. I would only feel comfortable with such a noble title if I used a quill.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I’ve been told it’s kind of ranty/stream-of-consciousness sometimes, but that’s due to an attempt to make it sound über-conversational, as if the story is delivered by someone sitting in the car with you.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Galactic Grapes? Alliteration and fruit leaves few options! The Last Projector is set around a drive-in for a lot of the story, so that’s where that title came from. And there’s also quite a bit of the “projecting” you find in psychology books when you’re researching about terrible people.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The Last Projector tries to address women’s lack of agency in crime novels and movies and the rescue fantasies of young men in particular. It rubs the hero’s face right into that nonsense. I’ve recently spent a lot of time with Jane Campion’s films, particularly The Piano and In The Cut, and I feel there’s a similar vibe with this book, a dark comedy about the sexual hang-ups of thrillers. Or something. I was lucky finding J. David Osborne game to publish this, as his Broken Rivers Books is also concerned with addressing these troubling noir and crime tropes in new ways
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
A combination of all these things, combined with wish-fulfillment, revenge fantasies, and imaginary movie titles and their imaginary pornographic parodies.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Recently rereading World According to Garp and reading three words a day from Blood Meridian. That one’s hard. Also Ballard’s Crash and Concrete Island (a perfect double-feature read), Palaniuk’s Lullaby really stuck with me (more than Fight Club actually, but maybe not more than the movie version), Ellison’s Deathbird Stories, Spoon River Anthology, Lord of the Flies, the Outlaw Bible of American Literature, and those little Edward Gorey hardcovers.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I guess Chuck Kinder was my mentor. But if he didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Smonk by Tom Franklin and Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayres.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Just got turned on to Tom Franklin and I’ve been going back and finding old Gordon Williams paperbacks like The Last Day of Lincoln Charles and The Man Who Loved Women. Nick Mamatas just got on my radar, and I’m putting a toe in that water. Jedidiah Ayres just released Peckerwood (also through Broken River Books), so like I said, I’m currently enjoying the hell out of that. It’s like having an entire cable series crammed into a book. He’s a very visual-minded writer. And I’m also in the middle of the late Cort McMeel’s Short, and something called The Raw Shark Texts that I haven’t made up my mind about yet. Some multimedia upstart named Tony McMillian produced and illustrated a book called Nefarious Twit, which I’m very much looking forward to, not just because I helped Kickstart that sucker.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Revising The Last Projector, running around a bit doing readings with my last book Fish Bites Cop!: Stories To Bash Authorities that came out through Comet Press last Spring, and working on a couple screenplays and a new novel.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My crazy wife Amy Lueck. I met a lot of great
writers at the University of Pittsburgh. Also, when
I was an undergrad at BGSU, I was fortunate enough
to have classes with a hat trick of great writers
who have gone on to kick the world’s ass. Alan
Heathcock, Anthony Doerr, and Mike Czyniejewski. I
name-drop these guys often because I now realize
how rewarding their classes were, how supportive
they were of my terrible freshman writing, and I
still remember the stories they assigned and count
them among my favorites. Wolff’s “Hunters in the
Snow” and “Bullet in the Head,” and Cheever’s “The
Swimmer,” and “Enormous Radio.” I reread those a
lot. I’m not sure I learned anything about writing
in an MFA program, or even if it’s possible, but I
definitely learned a lot about reading.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
No idea really. Some of my favorite stories have a hard time finding a home and are often ignored while I sometimes get emails from strangers wanting to talk about stories I wrote in just a couple hours and didn’t really consider. And some of the things getting published by big houses make you go, “Yeeeesh.” So none of it makes any sense to me at all.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
For Fish Bites Cop!, I wish I could add about 30 more stories. For Last Projector, 50 more pages, and a pop-up section in the middle.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I wrote about bugs a lot as a kid. My first story was the ol’ spider bites you in the hand and then weeks later…a bunch of spiders burst out. My next story was about an alien that bit you in the back, and then a bunch of aliens burst out. My third story was about a crab that bit you in the foot… you get the picture. I’d just seen Alien.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
This story is in Fish Bites Cop:
And this is a teeny, tiny part of The Last Projector:
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
To the reader? I like to think I jump the rails in ways some writers might not. For example I won’t hesitate to use a cliché like “jump the rails.”
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorites shift constantly, but right now I’m into Cormac McCarthy’s fiction and Harlan Ellison and John Irving’s nonfiction. T.C. Boyle, too. I reread old Stephen King a lot on trips. It’s such comfort food for children of the ‘80s.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book?
I did a little mini-tour for Fish Bites Cop! that took me to Chicago and St. Louis mostly, and repeatedly. The tour ends down the street at Carmichael’s Books here in Louisville, where most of it was written.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover to Fish Bites Cop! was designed by Mark Dancey, who is famous for, among other things, album covers and band posters for people like Soundgarden, Tenacious D, Big Chief and Five Horse Johnson. More importantly, he was one of the founding fathers of the greatest magazine of all time, Motorbooty. I highly recommend tracking down back issues.
The cover of The Last Projector will be designed by Matthew Revert, who has done all of the Broken River Books covers so far for their launch titles:
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Bumbling around with computers, revision, having too many versions everywhere, short versions chopped up for submissions, long versions resulting from reassembly, versions where I liked some of the edits I’d made to get it published but then felt some cut too much so I start trying to assemble a Frankenstory thing that’s part revision, part what I’d always loved that made it weird and indulgent. Usually I realize the edits helped. But not always.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
A month or so after I finished it, I learned what it was really about.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes. Stop giving writing advice.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I’m not sure if it’s the first book, but I remember really loving The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, and Tom Sawyer. And The Phantom Tollbooth. And the Choose Your Own Adventure books, like everybody else.
Fiona: Other than writing, do you have any hobbies?
I watch a lot of movies, read less than I should. And lately, I’ve been obsessed with writing reviews for a defunct videogame system called the Atari Lynx:
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Anything from the ‘80s, preferably on VHS for maximum nostalgic frustration.
Fiona: Favorite foods/colors/music?
Really into spaghetti squash these days. We discovered it when we tried to cut down on having pasta five days a week. They are amazing creations. You bake it, then scrape the thing with a fork, and it turns into spaghetti right before your eyes. I still can’t believe it when it happens.
Favorite color… green?
Favorite music… anything noisy and terrible and conducive to driving.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Crab fishing! Or a typer.
Fiona: Do you have a website/blog if so what it?
davidjameskeaton.com and http://www.flywheelmag.com