Tag Archives: lifestyle

“Throwback” Interview with author T.C. Boyle by Frank Mundo

I’ve interviewed a lot of amazing writers over the years. Unfortunately, I never collected my interviews anywhere for safe keeping, and many of them (most of them) are lost forever. In January 2010, I interviewed author T.C. Boyle for a magazine that, more than eight years later, is no longer around, and I thought this was one of the interviews that was lost forever as well (since only a teaser version is recorded here on my blog) — which sucked a big one because I really liked what he had to say.

Luckily, I was cleaning out my emails the other day, and I found my correspondences with Mr. Boyle, one of which had the interview attached. So yay for being lazy and not cleaning out my email.

I’m posting the interview here as a throwback piece and to keep a record of it. I’m hoping to find some of my other interviews I really enjoyed as well. In the meantime, here is my interview with author TC Boyle from January 2010:

The Reviews:
Very few writers have had long-term success at writing both novels and collections of short stories. One of these writers is TC Boyle, distinguished professor at the prestigious creative writing program at USC and the prolific and long-renowned author of 12 novels and 9 short story collections.

On January 25th, 2010, both of these worlds will collide with the paperback release of Boyle’s newest bestselling novel, The Women, and the hardcover release of his latest collection of fiction, Wild Child – the perfect opportunity to see for yourself why TC Boyle has earned a solid reputation as one of our nation’s most humorous and entertaining storytellers in both genres.

In The Women, Boyle offers a mesmerizing fictional account of the life of architect Frank Lloyd Wright told in reverse chronology through the eyes of four beautiful, passionate, and tragic women who truly loved him. This is Boyle’s third turn at fictionalizing the life of an enormous historical American figure — a triumvirate of egomaniacal geniuses, including John Harvey Kellogg (The Road to Wellville) and Alfred Kinsey (The Inner Circle), whose passions and accomplishments still affect us all today in one way or another.

In Wild Child, Nature is the main tool Boyle calls on to showcase his intelligent humor, surreal style, and socially-conscious sensibility, the hallmarks of his best work, in this excellent collection of 14 stories that gleefully remind us, despite our best efforts, that human beings are just animals once-removed by civilization.

In the title story, likely the one that will get the most attention by critics, Boyle shares his unique version of the wild boy raised in the wilderness by animals. But for new readers of Boyle’s work, or his fans in California, there are a few must-read stories that specifically address our own unique relationship with nature: “Ash Monday” (which discusses the California wildfires); “La Conchita” (based on the 1995 mudslide that buried 9 homes in Ventura); and “Question 62” that details the lives of suburban Californians turned upside down by a rogue mountain lion. The rest of the collection displays the amazing range and talent of a storyteller who lives up to the hype and always delivers the goods.

I especially liked the disturbing story “The Lie” in which a man, who has already used up all of his sick and personal days, lies to his boss about his newborn child’s death as an excuse to get out of work. This story alone is worth the price of admission.

The paperback version of The Women and Boyle’s newest collection of short fiction, Wild Child, are available in bookstores on Monday, January 25th. To learn more about TC Boyle, visit his website.

The Interview:
I had the great opportunity to interview TC Boyle recently. Please take a few more minutes to read this insightful and revealing discussion about his work and his life (including a bit on his next novel now in the works).

Q: Wild Child is your ninth collection of short stories, which coincides with the paperback release of your 12th novel, The Women. What compels or inspires you to write, and how do maintain such a prolific pace?

A: Oh, lordy, at the risk of dragging out the old clichés, let me just say that writing is my life and I cannot address the world without it. (Of, course, Hemingway had a solution for that.) There is an excitement to making art that is like an addiction, a phenomenon I discuss in my essay (at tcboyle.com) called, “This Monkey, My Back.” I never know what a given story or even novel will be and the thrill is in discovering it, sentence by sentence, day by day.

Q: You were born in New York , studied in Iowa , and then made your way here to Los Angeles and Santa Barbara . As fans and students of yours, we Californians have sort of claimed you as one of our own – as one of our best writers. Where do you see yourself in all of this and does geography affect your writing? 

A: I humbly thank all my fellow Californians for embracing me.  It is a joy and an honor to be amongst you.  However, I should say that I’d never been west of the Hudson till I was twenty-one, and then I went all the way west to Buffalo because my inamorata was a Buffalo gal.  Now–and ever since I started at USC in 1978– California is my home, and I ain’t never going back.  As for how this works out in my writing: I guess I will always be something of an interloper here and so perhaps I see things–or saw them–in a slightly different way, as, for instance, in The Tortilla Curtain.  The environment here excites me and it seems strange and new (whoever thought we’d settle in so comfortably with our quakes, our mudslides and firestorms?).  Many of my recent stories and novels reflect this, like “Ash Monday,” which deals with our fires, and “La Conchita,” which is built around the mudslide there, both of which are part of Wild Child.

Q: When I think TC Boyle, I think first entertainment, then music, then craft – all of which combine together into an art form that I genuinely appreciate and admire. In my opinion, you’re one of the few writers who seem to understand that you’re competing with TV, film, music, video games, social media and a billion other fun wastes of time. Is this a conscious effort on your part? Do you worry about your potential audience and the challenge of entertaining today’s “busy” readers?

A: All art is entertainment, lest we forget and try to seal it all away behind the gates of the university. I do what I do unconsciously, making stories because it seems natural to me and allows me to try to sort things out for myself. I am glad that you and others find them engaging on all levels. And yes, I do try to carve out a little place for my work amidst the noise of society and I do believe in giving an entertaining stage performance, but I do not write in order to attract attention or to have pieces to perform.  I know what will work on stage and what will not. And so I select. I also have to admit to being a little tiny bit of a ham and an extrovert, who used to shake out with a little rock and roll band.

Q: Going back to question 3, how much does music influence or affect your writing process?

A: I have never written anything without musical accompaniment. The musicality of the language and the beauty of its construction is the foundation for any story. Beauty, that’s what we’re after. All of us.

Q: I hate the saying, “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.” As a former high school teacher and current college professor, how do you address this statement?

A: I teach because it is a major part of my life. What makes it even better is that I have been fortunate for many years now to have an audience for my work, so that there is no economic necessity to teach. But I love the interaction with my students, I love their discipline and talent, and I love being privileged enough to be their coach. In my case, anyway, I can do and I can teach too. Further, most of the professors I know teach out of love of the subject and, as is also true for me, as a way of giving back to the system and to the people who inspired us.

Q: As a humanist, your writing addresses a lot of social issues, especially in regard to science and religion – but you don’t offer a lot of answers or preachy messages in response. As you’ve work out these concepts in your writing over the years, have you come close to finding answers for yourself, even if you don’t often share them in your work?

A: Yes, I am concerned with social and environmental issues. What rational person is not? But advocacy and art do not mix. Art is a seduction. Good art invites the reader to think and feel deeply and come to his/her own conclusions. As for myself: I am in despair, caught between a Darwin and a hard place (see the story “Bulletproof” from this collection). I have no hope, no answers. What I do have to counterbalance nihilism is art, family, friendship, usefulness. But then, what is useful when we live only to die?

Q: You’ve had great success in writing both short stories and novels. Which do you prefer and (maybe you can settle the age-old dispute) which is harder?

A: I am equally at home with both and feel lucky to be able to turn to stories after a long exhausting bout of novel-writing — and vice versa.

Q: Kids today (uh oh, I’m sounding like my parents) seem less interested in reading than ever. What do you think this means to the future of writing and publishing? Are we doomed?

A: Yes, we are doomed. While I am deeply grateful to be taught in the classrooms of this country and abroad too, I hate to see the subversive and interactive process of reading a novel relegated to an assignment, like trigonometry. How many of us graduate and do a little trig in our spare time? Here is the ray of hope: books provide an experience that neither film nor video game can fully duplicate, because books — of fiction and poetry in particular — ask so much of individual readers and take them so very deep inside themselves. Of course, this way madness lies, I understand that, but there you have it. Read and get well. Or maybe read and get sick.

Q: How do you feel about e-books and e-readers? Do you use any of these devices?

A: I do not have a Kindle, though my books are licensed for its use worldwide. Our work (that of we writers) would have been stolen long ago, as has happened with movies, music, video games, except that no one cares enough to steal it. Beyond that, the audience for books, even as it dwindles, still wants to embrace the object. A book is beautiful in itself. This is why I have always petitioned for inviting and representative covers–books should look like the rock and roll album covers of a bygone era. Hold the book, enjoy it, stroke it.

Q: What books are you reading right now? Are there any writers you feel who deserve more attention than they currently receive?

A: Just finished Carol Sklenica’s biography of Ray Carver, which was so rich it was like drinking whale’s blood. And I’m rediscovering the multifarious delights of Walter Kirn’s 2001 novel, Up in the Air, which inspired the superb Jason Reitman movie of the same name. Funny thing, too, even though we are doomed (see above), both literarily and literally, there are whole hosts of amazing writers, writing away, and they are far too numerous to name. Go to the bookstore and ask around. They’ll tell you. And definitely check out the L.A. writer, Richard Lange. He’s a great new novelist.



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New Poetry Chapbook by Frank Mundo Released Today by Kattywompus Press

I’m happy to announce that my new poetry chapbook, “Touched by an Anglo,” was officially released today by Kattywompus Press. 

The chapbook is a collection of 26 poems written and published over the last three years. 

Grab your copy today at kattywompuspress.com.

“Frank Mundo, author of the widely published essay, “How I Became a Mexican,” wields a knife you’ve seen, straight out of the kitchen drawer but somehow sharper than you remember, to carve the everyday tragedy and comedy of life right down to the bone. Mundo spares neither our sense of horror nor our funny bone, with poems that speak from the page like your childhood best friend peering over your shoulder.”

My other books, The Brubury Tales, Gary, the Four-Eyed Fairy and Other Stories, and Different are available in paperback or for Kindle at Amazon.com

Thank you for your support!!!! 

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Book Review: The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Part parable, part thriller, part cautionary tale, “The Vegetarian” is the crushing story of a family who seem both unwilling and unable to address the worsening mental illness of one of their own: a young woman name Yeong-hye, whose dream one night not only turns her against eating meat, it kick starts an extremely violent battle against everyone she knows for her mind, her body and her soul.

Told in three acts, from three very different perspectives: Yeong-hye’s awful husband, her pervy artist brother-in-law, and her miserable put-upon sister, the author explores the explosive relationship between inner-world passions and outer-world limitations — that strike-slip fault where the submission, subversion and expression of personal choices must meet and account for personal responsibility and familial and societal obligation.

Dark, disturbing, provocative, bloody, violent, intense, and sometimes even beautiful, “The Vegetarian” was a fast and excellent read — surprisingly meaty for its 192 pages. Hard to put down, especially in the first section. Four stars and a bit more.

I read it on my iPhone with the Kindle App, and there weren’t any formatting, typos or other issues. Definitely worth the money.

Get The Vegetarian by Han Kang at Amazon.

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Carolyn See, California Literary Legend, Dies at 82

You know that one teacher that changed your life, that one teacher that made you see a better version of yourself was actually possible and attainable?

That was Carolyn See for me. She was my teacher, my friend and mentor. I am a better writer and a better human being for having known her and learned from her and worked with her.

I just can’t say enough how much she changed my life for the better. She was the best!!! I’ll never forget her. I’ll never forget what I learned from her.

RIP Carolyn See, my friend and mentor. I love you, and I miss you!!!

To learn more about Carolyn See and her amazing body of work, here’s the announcement in the LA Times today.

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New Poem Published Today at Angel City Review

My new poem, “Waste of Shame,” a sestina I wrote for my brother, was published today in the latest issue of Angel City Review –> This magazine focuses on Los Angeles writers, established and new.

Check it out if you have a minute.

Other poetry contributors:
Janice Lee and Michael Duplessis
Emily Fernandez
Nelson Alburquenque
James Cushing
Alyssa Crow
Oktavi Allison
Mike Sonksen
Marcus Clayton
Sarah Thursday
Luivette Resto
AJ Urquidi
Kirk Sever
Jesse Bliss
Maja Trochimczyk

There are also short stories and non-fiction work in the magazine — a lot of great stuff for whatever you’re looking for.

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“Aubade,” New Poem by Frank Mundo Published by Poetic Diversity

Honored that my new poem “Aubade” (which is an aubade and a sonnet) is published in the latest issue of poeticdiversity.
An aubade is a morning love song (as opposed to a serenade, which is in the evening), or a song or poem about lovers separating at dawn. The sun is often addressed directly in this poem.
The poem was written earlier this year for my wife.


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2014 Readers’ Choice Award nominee at BigAl’s Books and Pals

Different by Frank Mundo is nominated for 2014 Readers' Choice Award at BigAl's Books and Pals

Different by Frank Mundo

I’m pleased to announce that my book, Different, is up for the 2014 Readers’ Choice Award for Fantasy books at BigAl’s Books and Pals.

Published on December 9th, 2013, Different tells the story of 12-year-old Gregory Gourde, a bright yet awkward kid who experiences certain physical changes one morning that even puberty can’t explain: his head has become a watermelon.

What follows is an audacious exploration of what it really means to be different in this dark yet humorous nod to Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” and Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”. Different also includes a dozen original woodcut-inspired black-and-white illustrations by Keith Draws.

Different was reviewed by BigAl’s Books and Pals on December 31, 2013, which you can read here.

If you’ve read and liked Different, please take a minute to vote for it in the Fantasy Category at BigAl’s using the Rafflecopter application/form. Just for voting you are entered to win prizes and free books. Check it out. And thank you for your support.

Different is now available in ebook and paperback versions on Amazon. Visit my Amazon author page for more info on all of my books.

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