Name Ryan Quinn Flanagan
Where are you from
I am originally from Barrie, ON Canada, a commuter city about a hour north of Toronto. I went to school at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON and received my Master’s Degree in History. I now live up in northern Ontario in Elliot Lake, a small dying mining town of about 9000 people. It really is the wilderness up here. The bears walk right down the street and rifle through your garbage. The police fire bear bangers to scare them back into the woods.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
At present, I have just released a few poetry collections with Marathon Books, working with two very talented surreal artists named Olof Johansson and Stefano Bonazzi for the cover work. I am also working on a flash fiction collaboration with two great writers named Ben John Smith from Australia and Rich Wink from England titled: The Last Days of the Worm. We have a crazy talented artist named Keelan Ashton-Bell doing the visuals for this project. I also have a new book with Leaf Garden Press slated to be released in 2017 and a new book with Interior Noise Press also slated for 2017 release.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have been diagnosed with Hypergraphia, so I have a compulsion to write things. I guess I began writing around the age of ten or eleven and just never really stopped. Everything from pen to paper, on the computer, walls full of stick-it-notes, grocery lists, notepads, on pieces of cardboard etc. My first published piece was in the local paper when I was ten. Now I can’t stop writing.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Even though I write a lot of the time, I have never really considered myself a writer. I have traditionally worked odd jobs (usually construction-based or stocking shelves or in factories) to pay the bills so I guess I would be considered menial labour. That is what I have gotten paid to do, so that is what I am.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Again, I have Hypergraphia so I just kept writing to the point that arranging the material into books for publication became the easiest way to catalogue all the material more than anything else. I was lucky enough to meet up with some cool publishers from early on and that trend has continued throughout so I have been very fortunate in that respect.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Usually a lot of free verse but I also enjoy surreal art and write in this vein as well.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The titles of my books almost always come directly from a piece found within that particular book or are related in some loose way to the material as a whole. The title is never random or completely separate from the material. I also look for a title that pops, as well as the cover art, because that is the first thing the reader will see. It is their introduction to your work.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I do not have any particular message in mind with my writing. I am largely apolitical, not personally a religious person and believe people should just enjoy your work and perhaps interpret it for themselves. It seems a tyrannical notion to me to just start telling people what they should think or feel. That said, the sledgehammer and I are not complete strangers. Sometimes you just have to drive a point home.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Almost all of my work is realistic free verse based on actual events and people in my own life. Some of it will just be embellished at times but it is all lived and experience and comes from a very real place. I often don’t even change the names of people and places which can sometimes get me in trouble with family and friends.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
No personal mentor, but plenty of influential books. Franz Kafka’s short stories are central for me as well as the works of Richard Brautigan in remembering the importance of humour in one’s work. Bukowski and Fante have played a key stylistic role and both the words and visual art of William Blake have influenced me greatly. Although I do not write Haiku, Basho is one of my favourite writers for his simplistic beauty and mastery of the notion of economy of verse. Authors who can say so much with so little seem magical to me. Other influential books for me are Dostoevsky’s The Gambler, Leonard Cohen’s Flowers for Hitler, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Howl by Allen Ginsberg, and James Joyce’s The Dubliners. E.E. Cummings and the novels of Jules Verne have always fired the imagination for me as well. Also the realism of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and writers that don’t sugarcoat things.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
The best writer out there today in my opinion is this Australian writer based in Melbourne named Ben John Smith. What strikes me about his work is the feeling of menacing tenderness that permeates it. He takes these two seemingly opposing qualities are marries them with ease. I do not know of anyone else that is presently doing that. His writing is raw and real and lived which I respect greatly.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My family have never supported my writing but my wife has. And a few other writers I have met along the way. We write to each other, support each other, and often end up working on projects together. It is quite rewarding.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I don’t personally see writing as a career, although some are able to make a career of it. I see it more as a vocation for some or as therapy for others or as more of a sickness or diagnosable compulsion as in my case. I write all the time but am certainly not able to make a career out of it. Kudos to those few that want to and honestly can.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would change nothing. I write fast and loose and then I am done with it. The only editing that happens is spelling and grammar issues, the rest just comes out how it does in that particular space and time and then I am on to something else. If I go back and look at it later, I often find that I am in such a different head space that I cannot relate to my own work and it sometimes seems as if it could have been written by someone else. I never spend too much time mulling over anything. You do it, then it is done.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I guess having that first awful poem published at the age of ten bucked up the spirits, and after that the Hypergraphia took over. Now I write because I have to in order to keep some basic working sanity in my life. I have to get things down and I cannot stop. It really is a sickness more than anything.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
As aforementioned, I have just released a few books with Marathon Books working with two very talented surreal artists named Olof Johansson and Stefano Bonazzi for the cover work. I am also working on a fiction collaboration with two great writers Ben John Smith from Australia and Rich Wink from England titled: The Last Days of the Worm. We have a very talented artist named Keelan Ashton-Bell doing the visuals for this project. As well as a new book with Leaf Garden Press to be released in 2017 and a new book with Interior Noise Press also slated for 2017 release.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Maintaining a single linear thought.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I do not have to travel much for my writing. I have lived in a bunch of different places and I sprinkle in a bit of travel to fatten up the experience but travel has never been as central to my work as it seems to be for some other writers. Paul Bowles wrote very specifically of Algiers, or Joyce’s writing existing in pre-1904 Dublin, but for me location does not seem to be as paramount.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Most the covers are designed by my wife or various artists that peak my interest such as the surreal painters Olof Johansson and Stefano Bonazzi for my newest works with Marathon Books and Keelan Ashton-Bell for the latest Horror Sleaze Trash collaboration. James Gerrard has done amazing photographs for a past collaborative effort as well.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Staying focused on a single linear thought is always hard for me. I tend to jump around a lot. Perhaps I was a gymnast in a past life.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I have learned just how much things can stay with you and percolate and that I have a lot more living in me than I thought.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
Traditionally when books are made into films they are hacked to pieces and watered down into nothing. I would hope none of my books were ever made into a film, though Kesey came out pretty good with Cuckoo’s Nest.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write loose and fast and try to be as honest as you can. But never forget the importance of humour in your work. Do not try to be someone else or write from a place that does not feel natural. And write whenever you can.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Nope. I just hope they enjoy the works for what they are and if they are able to get something from them then I am happy. There are already enough people telling you what to do, think, feel etc. I will not be one of them.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street. Also re-reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Probably Roald Dahl’s The Witches or something by Dr. Seuss.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I suffer from major depressive disorder so not much makes me laugh. I guess cats are always able to make me laugh. They are so damn neurotic like furry little Kafkas.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Edgar Cayce, because he seemed like a good guy.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I plan to be cremated so the whole headstone thing is a moot point. I’d much rather just quietly return to dust when I am finished, how very unassuming and Canadian of me.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I have no hobbies. I write and survive. I cannot make film or music or paint. Writing is something I have to do and it is the only thing I do alright.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Not much television, plenty of movies: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Taxi Driver, Cool Hand Luke, Raging Bull, Rocky, The Shining, Doctor Strangelove, Apocalypse Now, Scarface, On the Waterfront…too many to name really. I love both film and music and am heavily influenced by them. People who are able to create in these mediums always astound me.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Music: Johnny Cash, Pixies, Tom Waits, Joy Division, Nirvana, The White Stripes, Nine Inch Nails, Sam Cooke, Sixto Rodriguez, Tchaikovsky, Portishead, Velvet Underground, plenty of big band and doo-wop, Howlin’ Wolf, Billie Holiday…anything with soul really. I love music!
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Nothing really. Retire early, sleep in late.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?