Interview with Michael T. Fournier for AuthorMePro

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APKY/AMP: Hello Michael, and thank you for your interest in AuthorMeProfessionals. To begin with, please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer. What inspired you to write your first book?

Hello, Akinyi! Michael T. Fournier here. I’m a writer living in Belchertown, Massachusetts.Michael Fournier

When I was little I was always writing fake newspapers and stuff like that. I took a fiction class my senior year of high school and got the bug.

My first attempt at a novel came in 2002. It was pretty awful, but it got me used to submitting my work around, which in turn made me improve. So did keeping regular writing hours for the first time.

Before that novel attempt, I published a few punk zines and wrote for some others.

In 2006 I pitched the 33 1/3 series with an idea for writing a book about “Double Nickels On The Dime,” a record by the Minutemen, my favorite band, and had my proposal accepted. Around that time I started teaching a punk rock history course at Tufts University. In 2008, based on both my teaching and writing experience, my girlfriend (now wife) encouraged me to apply to the University of Maine for graduate fiction. I got in, and worked with a great writer named Dave Kress on my novel “Hidden Wheel.”

The 25th anniversary of  the “Double Nickels” album was in 2009. I read from my book at a NYC anniversary party for the record put onHidden Wheel by Kat Georges, who – along with Peter Carlaftes--  is the mastermind behind Three Rooms Press. They released my novel (despite our perpetual Red Sox/Yankees back-and-forth).

APKY/AMP: I love the expression “got the bug”. Very appropriate. Tell me, what genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?

I think of my fiction as just that – fiction – but I sometimes hear it borders on sci-fi, or dystopia.  Understandable, I guess, as I often try to tease out implications of current technologies and scenarios into the future. Of course, a lot of my stuff focuses on interpersonal relationships – rock bands, in particular, being a great vehicle for a discussion thereof – so some people say it’s rock fiction or punk fiction.

In addition to all the above – the rock/punk fiction-fi stuff – I also write a lot of music criticism.

APKY/AMP: Michael, your life seems to be full of fun! Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp, rock, punk or sci-fi?

Whatever is old is new again is one of the main themes of “Hidden Wheel.” For years the music industry came up with new ways to get consumers to buy their record collections again -- cassettes, CD’s, MP3’s – when good ol’ vinyl was the best choice all along. The same thing is happening now with books, as various eReaders  boast bells and whistles that will make reading more ____________.  The framing device of the novel is that a solar flare wipes everyone’s hard drives, making analogue win (again).

APKY/AMP: Hey, you just made me glad I’m not a good handler of technology, Michael. So, what have you had published to-date?

Continuum Press published my book on the Minutemen’s 1984 album “Double Nickels On The Dime” in 2007. Three Rooms Press released my debut novel “Hidden Wheel” in October of 2011.

I’ve had short stories published in Barrelhouse, Stolen Island Review and Pennsylvania English, and my music writing has been in/on the Oxford American, One Week One Band, and Pitchfork.

APKY/AMP: Wow, you’re just about everywhere where there’s some scriber action! Being so diverse. do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep a schedule. Read widely. Get your work out there. Don’t expect. 

Find colleagues whose opinions you trust and respect and look to them for help and guidance.

Get used to rejection. Don’t take it personally.  Understand that haters gonna hate.

Above all, avoid jealousy and competitiveness – the success of friends/colleagues translates to the success of all.

APKY/AMP: Very, very wise and generous, Michael. J Tell us readers, why should we buy your book?

I’ve invented a city and populated it with fictional bands, writers, and graffiti artists – if any of those topics interest you, “Hidden Wheel” is up your alley.

In terms of the novel’s form, things are changing – the way we read, write, and communicate. My novel is a reflection of those changes, and comments critically on them.

Lastly, my book is Wicked Serious, as it’s a metaphor for Goldman-Sachs and Enron.

APKY/AMP: Now I’m really intrigued. So how much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?

I grew up in the punk scene, where bands like the Minutemen, Black Flag and Fugazi did everything themselves. So it feels natural for me to do what I can – I’m always hustling to find outlets on which to discuss my work.

Promoting a book is obviously way different than hyping a band or record, but I still think the best way to get an audience is to read in as many places as possible. To that end, I raised money on Kickstarter to tour, and in 2012 have read locally, as well as in Atlanta, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Harrisburg PA, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Brunswick NJ, New York City, Philadelphia, Raleigh NC, Richmond VA, San Francisco and Santa Monica. 

APKY/AMP: Wow. Maybe you should do my marketing for me, Michael. Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?

I write at my desk, where I have a computer with no internet connection. I’m sure everyone realizes how hard it is to be an effective writer with the ‘net on, right?

APKY/AMP: Tell me all about it, Mr Fournier! So do you have an agent? And do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?

Nope, and nope. I’m sure having an agent is beneficial for some people, but agents are reliant on selling work to get paid. My stuff is weird, niche-y, and not altogether saleable, and here I am.

(With that said, if there’s an agent out there who thinks they can make money off my weirdo dystopian punk hoo-ha, s/he should gmail me at michaeltfournier and we’ll talk.)

APKY/AMP: Message loud and clear. By the way, I also have trouble finding an agent because I’m not “commercial” –  all my stuff have a heavy African leaning. I think I should have been born a writer two hundred years ago;  just being an African would have made me mega commercial! But jokes aside, what are you working on at the moment / next, Michael?

I’ve been hacking away at a book on smalltown living for about two years now, and am finally making headway, thank goodness. The cast of weirdos has been whittled down to a manageable three major characters.

The book after that is (surprise!) about another rock band.

APKY/AMP: That’s your bug, right? Do you manage to write every day?

During the school year I typically write five or six days a week.

This summer I’ve barely written at all – touring, plus my summer job at Upward Bound, kept me busy and exhausted. I’m looking forward to getting back to work.

APKY/AMP: I think it’ll be a refreshing change. What‘s your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?

I think of writer’s block as when a writer self-pressures to produce right now and can’t. Keeping regular hours is the best cure.

APKY/AMP: Good. And do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and off you are with it?

The stories I plot most tend to be forced. The book I’m writing right now, for example, had all these great scenes and characters at the outset, but I quickly realized that a lot of what I was doing (or, to be fair, trying to do) just didn’t fit, or flat-out stunk.

You know when the space shuttle loses booster rockets as it gains altitude? I feel like my ideas are much the same – the early ideas are propulsive, but it’s the shuttle itself that does the orbiting.

APKY/AMP: Right. I also tend to plod along chapter after chapter with the ideas leading me by the nose. When they stop leading I read till they beckon me back. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?

I often have a general idea of what my characters will be like/about, and try to find names which reflect their personalities and foibles. I like to bounce character names off my friends, who have great ideas.

As far as believability goes, I always try to remember that with very few exceptions, everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing. It’s easy for people to create justifications for behavior. Figuring out what those justifications are for each character is important.

APKY/AMP: Michael, please introduce me to your friends – I need great ideas too! Anyway, who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?

My wife, Rebecca, is always my first reader. If I can impress her, I know I’ve done something right.

APKY/AMP: Good choice. And do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?

The start of my writing day is tinkering with the past few days’ work, so whatever prose makes it from first to final draft is formed over a long time. With that said, huge chunks of story get jettisoned along the way, and stuff gets added later, too.

APKY/AMP: Yeah, that sounds familiar. J Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?

My hand can’t keep up with my brain when I write on paper. Of course, I can’t keep up when I’m typing, either, but typing is closer.

APKY/AMP: Okay. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?

For years and years I wrote first person exclusively. In the past few years I’ve switched to a combination of first and third – “Hidden Wheel” incorporates bits of journal entries, as well as speculative scholarly reconstruction and media articles. Reading Faulkner a few years back reinforced that I don’t need to stick to one narrator, or voice.

I have tried second person, and thus far it’s not for me.

APKY/AMP: Right. I’m thinking about the first and third combination too, but I haven’t been brave enough to try it. Third keeps me all over the globe in the very same minute! What do you like to read?

I go through phases. All summer I read rock biographies; now I’m starting back on fiction. I have a huge pile of novels I picked up or was given on tour this summer which I’m looking forward to reading.

My favorite fiction writers are Douglas Coupland, David Foster Wallace, William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut and Flannery O’Connor.  Some music/fanzine writers I love are Aaron Cometbus, Rev. Norb, Joe Carducci, Keith Werwa, Lester Bangs, Byron Coley and Al Burian.

APKY/AMP: Erm… of course. And what do you do when you’re not writing ? Any hobbies or party tricks?

I play drums in a punk band called Dead Trend, whose songs are always 25 years behind the present day. This year we’re singing about 1987: Oliver North, Noriega, the Berlin Wall. We have an EP up on bandcamp: deadtrend.bandcamp.com.

Aside from that, I read a lot, listen to the Red Sox on the radio (this interview is being conducted the day after The Trade), go on walks with my wife, and, recently, I’ve started collecting names off the bottom of paper bags. (Hello to Wigberto Serpa and Hechavarria.)                                                                                                                       

AMP: Sounds like the guy who writes terrific weirdos , Michael. Tell me, where can we find out about you and your work?

I post updates and articles on michaeltfournier.tumblr.com, as well as on Twitter –xfournierx.

APKY/AMP: Good to know, so maybe I’ll find one to steal for my blog page. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

I’m the editor of Cabildo Quarterly, a seasonal broadsheet which I distribute for free in and around Western Massachusetts and at readings. This summer, my friend Lisa Panepinto agreed to be the poetry editor, so the second issue, out soon, will doubtlessly be better than the first as a result of her involvement.  Check out Cabildoquarterly.tumblr.com for the latest issue, how to contribute, and so on.

I am always up for doing readings – I’d love to come to Europe (and Japan!) to read, and there are huge swaths of the U.S. that I haven’t hit yet, as well. Get in touch if you’d like to set something up: again, my gmail address is michaeltfournier.

Dead Trend is always looking to play shows, too. Bands, get in touch at the same address.

 

APKY/AMP: Michael, You’re a terrific PR Marketer too. Thank you for this interview. I now  invite you to include an extract of your writing:

Here’s a phone conversation between trust funder/gallery owner Ben Wilfork and an old friend. Footnotes are by L. William Molyneux, who is the 23rd century scholar attempting to reconstruct early 21st century time based on documents and recordings surviving after a solar flare reases all digital media in the 24th  century:

Hello, Jen?

                It’s not Jen any more, Benjamin.

                Jennifer.

                It’s Lara.

                Lara?

                Lara Fox-Turner. [1]

                What was the matter with your old name?

                You were one of the worst ones. Hit ‘em like a ton of fish!

                I love that joke.

                Well, that joke is finished. It’s Lara Fox-Turner now.

                How long has that been going on for?

                Since I started ArtScene.

                Funny you should mention that.

                Is that right? How are things in Freedom Springs? How’s your, ahem, business?

                I’m starting my own gallery.

                Really.

                More of a show space than anything else, but there’s some art.

                There are bands in Freedom Springs?

                Some. Have you heard of know Dead Trend?

                You can’t be serious. The Buddhists?

                They were only Buddhist for three years.

                They started the Buddhacore movement. People dancing around at shows wearing prayer robes, trying to attain enlightenment in the pit. A farce.

                But you know who they are.

                Sure.

                There’s a band here with an ex-member. The bassist.

                Nate?

                No.

                Lou?

                Amy.

                Who?

                Amy.

                Was she early?

                She did the reunion tour.

                I didn’t see them.

                They tried to set the record straight. They only played pre-Buddhacore songs.

                A relaunch.

                Maybe a reset.

                So there’s an ex-member of Dead Trend in your town. That can’t be why you’re calling me.

                There are some other bands here, too. I’ve just discovered that one is on the verge of a distribution deal.

                What about the art, though?

                The most talented artist is named Rhonda. She’s doing amazing work.

                What’s it like?

                She has one canvas that she’s been working on for seven years.

                Go on.

                She records her life on the canvas every day. Like a journal. She says that her work is a treatise against the Singularity[2].

                That’s an interesting idea. What is her other work like?

                Her second painting is in progress. Exactly like the first.

                Wait. She only has two paintings?

                So far. She says it’s her life’s work.

                Interesting. But she probably won’t sell.

                I haven’t asked her.

                Artists like that never do.

                I wouldn’t know.

                There has to be something else.

                The other one is this street artist. Calls himself Mizst.

                A tagger? I can’t do anything with that.

                Not a tagger. A street artist. He takes pictures of cityscapes on his cel phone, and then paints them.

                Really. What’s his medium?

                He uses CD cases.

                CD cases!

                He hangs them in the city, in view of whatever his subject is.

                Well, that’s interesting. CD cases. Is he a musician?

                Not that I’m aware of.

                The commentary on dying media makes that interesting. Is he prolific?

                He is. He has a basement full of work.

                Cheap?

                He’s never sold a painting before.

                So this diarist and the CD landscaper are going to be at your gallery opening?

                Yes. Plus the ex-Dead Trend band, the distribution band and one more. Coxswain, they’re called. They sing about ship masts breaking, things of that nature.

                If I were you, I would get in on the ground floor of this.

                Oh, I will. And I’m going to release records.

                A record label! What gave you that idea?

                Records are cool.

                Same old Benjamin. Which band?

                Stonecipher. Ex-Dead Trend. Vinyl.

                Isn’t the profit margin higher on CD’s?

                Yes.

                Do you care?

                I’m not doing it for profit.

                Of course you’re not. What’s the date of the opening? We’ll be there.

                We should meet at Fogtown Burrito.

                Fogtown? I don’t ever want to set foot in that place again.[3]

                It’s a martini bar now.

                Really.

APKY/AMP: Yay! This does need “getting to the ground floor of” it for sure. J J Thank you once again, Michael, and good luck with your projects.

Thank you!



[1] Lara Fox-Turner, nee Jennifer Fishton, met Ben Wilfork while both were in Chicago. I am pleased to say that Fishton/Turner attended Freedom Springs University in her late teens. It is speculated, in “American Charge,” that Benjamin Wilfork relocated to Freedom Springs on Fishton/Turner’s advice.   

[2] In the latter 20th and early 21st centuries, fringe groups speculated that computer power would render humans obsolete. The moment of human obsolescence was known as the Singularity. One can only wonder what such fringe groups (and Rhonda Barrett, whose fear was chess-based, and, I think, valid under her own set of circumstances) would think of the Datastrophe.

[3] Despite providing free food to members of the Freedom Springs art and music scenes, Fogtown Burrito was known as a haven for unhygienic food service practices.