Its 11:34 pm
Welcome to “8 Questions with…….”
One thing I have come to learn about writing is that almost every single writer likes to
get some sort of feedback about their work. Note the “almost”. I like to think that I fit in that column but I wouldn’t being telling the complete truth. There are three people whose words and friendship mean the world to me and whose comments have gone from the mere “Sounds like a good movie” to a real connection. People whom I have come to care about very deeply and have massive respect for. They have accepted me for whom I am,a jagged ball of broken heart and soul who is just trying to keep one foot ahead of the other with no judgements or trying to fix the unfixable,they are simply very good friends.
Stacey Bryan is one of the three (I sound like Stephen King writing that) people of who I am talking about. Not only has Stacey become a very good friend,she is also an extraordianry writer. On WordPress,we have a bell which lets us know when someone we follow drops a new new piece of writing and I check that the first thing when I get up,I want to see if Stacey has posted something wonderful to start the day with.
As I sit here writing this introduction,I am asking myself why it took me so long to ask Stacey for a interview and I wish I had a good reason to give but I don’t. I am just glad I finally woke the hell up and decided that now is the perfect time to ask Stacey her 8 Questions…….
Please introduce and talk a little bit about your latest blog entry.
Hey, thanks for inviting me to The Inner Circle, Michael! You’re one of the first people I ran into in the electronic ether and it’s been nothing but laughs and chills and thrills (and a few tears) ever since, and I’m very happy to be here. Worthy? I don’t know. But still happy!
My name’s Stacey but everyone calls me Oaks after the place where I grew up in the San Fernando Valley in L.A., Sherman Oaks. That’s not true. I just made that up. I am from The Valley, but I don’t have a cool nickname, although I’ve always wished I had a man’s name. Carson. Wyatt. Levi. Reed. From here on out, please call me Levi.
My last blog entry was a few paragraphs from David Foster Wallace’s “The Pale King” that involved a lot of dreamy, flowing words that I thought would instill a sense of quiet in those who read it, maybe diminishing all our coronavirus worries and concerns for a few moments at least. I didn’t mention in the post that the author killed himself in his mid-40s because that would have undermined the serenity I was attempting to achieve. But, shh, just pretend I didn’t say that last part.
How are you coping with the Covid-19 lockdown? How are you staying busy?
I caption for the hearing impaired and my office sent us home to work. What did that mean for me? Apart from being extremely, deeply grateful that I COULD work from home? Just think of the most clueless, out-of-the-loop anti-tech person you know, and they’ll magically transform into Bill Gates standing next to me. That being said, working from the relative isolation of the bedroom now makes crying a lot easier and much less embarrassing. As I told one blogger recently, captioning used to be like riding a three-speed Schwinn. Now it’s like programming the Space shuttle. So adapt or die. (And cry. It helps. Sometimes.)
Aside from that, life is pretty much the same. My husband is busy with his work. We both read a lot. We watch movies. I think about writing and then never do it.
Book I of my paranormal comedy series Day for Night has been out for several years and the publisher’s sending first edits for Book II soon. Book III and IV are planned out but not written yet. It doesn’t help that my husband sits across the room from me searching for something to read in his iPad and will suddenly blurt out, very bitterly, “God, what is with all these series?! Just write one book. I just want to read one book!”
What was growing up in your house like? What are 3 of your favorite memories growing up?
Growing up was pretty normal in my house, although we were one of the only black families in our neighborhood and also some of the only black kids at our school. To complicate matters, I was adopted and although I’m mixed race, I was a good deal lighter than my adoptive family and spent a lot of time saying, “I’m black,” to kids and getting either a blank stare back or an outright, “No, you’re not!”
My brother was called an Oreo at a Catholic school we attended for three years. It was ironic that in the midst of Jesus’ warm embrace was where my brother found some of the most overt racism. The day I brought home a depiction of Satan on a small, laminated card was the last straw for my mother, and the next year we were enrolled in a different, non-religious school.
A few of my best memories include reading books in the backyard tree with my black cat Mr. Smith and wondering how much money I could make from becoming a witch and the afternoon my friend snapped a picture of me doing a backflip off the fence in her yard. Cubby from the Mickey Mouse Club lived next door—you can see his lawn and house in the picture. I used to babysit for him and his wife, and they were really nice.
Maybe not the best but one of the most vivid memories I have is the day I received a letter from my biological mother who had tracked me down and wanted to meet me. When my mother found out she started crying, like I was going to pack up and go move in with my “real” mom or something, and I looked at her, amazed, and said, “You’re my only mother,” and realized at that moment how fragile and vulnerable everybody is—even adults, even our parents.
How old were you when you got your urge to start writing?
I started writing before I could even spell, and it took me a LONG time to get good at spelling. I’m talking WELL into adulthood. I finally did learn to spell when I began to caption. It’s only, oh, 99% of the job requirement because the whole thing involves writing, so I had to “re-learn” fast. But oh, the angst, the drama, the emotion involved with writing fiction! I was a very sensitive child and extremely moody, so that came out in my writing–heavy, dark, depressing tales (with terrible spelling) until I finally developed a sense of humor somewhere in my late 20s.
Where inspired the title of your blog?
Just what I said above about developing a sense of humor. Meeting my husband helped me lighten up too. Joking around is a defense mechanism which I use shamelessly to this day. Deep inside, of course, a pit of darkness remains that never goes away, a black hole in which Levi, my alter ego, sits, or probably isn’t even sitting, just crouching down painfully, squinting around and/or angrily punching the “walls”. But laughter creates endorphins, so as long as I keep those going in some kind of numbers, I’ll be able to hold Levi at bay, caged within a limited sphere of pain and suffering.
Where do you get the inspiration for your fictional stories?
Do you have a set routine for when you write?
I can get inspiration from anywhere and anything. An elderly woman who lived in our building once told my husband that he should “get a better wife,” so that turned into a story about a father and daughter and the woman saying he should “get a better daughter.” An interest in anorexia nervosa led to “Devour: A Love Story,” and hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon turned into a nightmarish musing on the state of existence.
I once dreamt that I was in a warehouse full of people and we were all waiting for something, but when I realized it had to do with UFOs and we were all acting like sheep I got really mad and yelled, “Are we just gonna stand here?! Let’s get out of here!” and led a riotous mob outside and down a hill.
Later when I woke up I thought of a story where somebody’s so angry about alien abductions that they decide to become undead in order to fight back, and Day For Night was born. Yes, my novel contains both aliens and vampires. But no zombies. Not in book I at least, lol.
My routine is boring. Because I don’t have one. I used to write everything by hand but now I can’t because my hand cramps up as if there’s not an ounce of potassium left anywhere in my body. So I just write in a Word document…whenever I can. I’m like a thief who steals time—even though time is free—so I’m the dumbest thief alive. I’m the worst. I do NOT write every day, like they say one should do. I deserve to die in anonymity, alone and penniless, rolling around in a gutter somewhere.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking of writing a blog for the first time?
Uh…don’t wait like me for your publisher to practically put a gun to your head and make you do it. It never would have occurred to me to do something like this but now I’m glad I did, having met interesting, passionate personalities (like my host, Michael) learned a lot (which I hope is mutual) and literally laughing out loud all the time. So my advice would be not to wait. Like Nike says, Just Do It.
And don’t stress out for ideas so the whole thing becomes a chore. If you get up one day and open up your blog and hear a strange clanking sound and realize your legs and arms are shackled and you’re sitting in a prison cell with no window and an intimidating guard glaring at you from the hallway…stop. You’ve gone too far. Forget about the blog for a while. Wait until you’re out on parole or doing community service to give it another whirl.
What three blogs right now are your favorites and why?
What, besides The Inner Circle?! *wink* I’m not sure I can follow the rules here ‘cause I have several favorites, but three immediate ones are All Things Thrillerwhere mysteries and noir reviews are offered up in a “It was a dark and stormy night…and I needed a cigarette–bad,” engaging style, Observation Blogger, whose eclectic topics run from music to philosophy to literature and beyond, Comics Grinder, an excellent source on the beautiful art and stories of comics from all over the world, and the Biscuit Factory, who philosophizes on various subjects also and whose amusing, lyrical, and frightening book Out of Essex I’ve been enjoying as each chapter is posted. Oops, that was four. Sorry about that.
But wait! What about these?
KoneKrusosKronos, Scenic Writer’s Shack, Yeah, Another Blogger, Tao Talk, Assholes Watching Movies, Wolfman’s Cult, Widdershin’s Worlds.
There’s so many and I could list at least 20 more, but I don’t want to break the rules any more than I already have, so these will have to suffice. If you’re not learning something from them, you’re laughing or reading poetry or having captivating conversations.
How do you handle the bane of ALL writers – the dreaded writer’s block?
They asked the same thing in Goodreads and my answer was that I just take it out on my husband. Which is unfortunately true a lot of the time. A lot of people don’t even believe writer’s block exists. Which is weird, because it’s not like Bigfoot or Santa Claus. It’s not a myth. Just switch places with my husband for a week. You’ll find out. And then you’ll be sorry.
Yeah, so the same way that I don’t have a writing routine, I also have no useful methods for handling writer’s block. Maybe you’re beginning to see a pattern here. Maybe you’re beginning to understand why I feel doomed and see a gutter in the future with my name on it. I have tried, though. Reading. Listening to music. Long walks. Just scribbling gibberish on a piece of paper. Nothing works, really. All I can do is wait for it to go away.
How did you land your day job?
Well, thanks for wondering! The boring part is that I found it at the UCLA job board after graduation. A job I could actually do! I took the test in the Hollywood office but turned them down because their only shift was overnight and I didn’t think I could stay awake. I called their New York office, but they weren’t hiring at the moment.
Now the exciting part. Fast-forward to a year and two jobs later. In the middle of a scintillating newspaper gig where I handled the classified ads, the New York office called out of the blue and asked how soon could I get there. I spat my coffee out and sputtered, “Uh…two weeks?”
My boyfriend and I drove across country in his car, a stick, which I was really bad at, so whenever it was my turn to drive we were constantly millimeters away from death. Once in NYC, I walked into the office in Manhattan, met everyone, started getting trained on this really weird equipment and thought, “I will be fired within the week.”
But I wasn’t. I picked it up eventually and was captioning the hell out of Jeopardy! after a few months. We captioned Jeopardy! for four years, and if I was good at absorbing trivia, I would have been an unmitigated genius by the end of those years. It would have been like attending grad school on a full scholarship. But I actually don’t remember One. Word. They. Said.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I don’t have a ton of free time because I work A LOT. But I do enjoy wandering around thrift shops even though psychics warn that ghosts might be attached to items and clothing. When I think about my life, that would actually explain a lot. My husband and I used to hike a lot and along with doing the Grand Canyon, we also summited Mt. Whitney, but lately I just do long, grueling, punishing walks through Burbank. Those are the nights I sleep the best.
I like taking my dad KFC or homemade soup and helping him out but he never seems to need or want anything. He’s 92 years old and retired like five years ago. He is the epitome of the Energizer Bunny. I download books in my Kindle constantly without a shred of control, like a crack whore. My husband and I love to binge-watch TV shows like The Boys which returns for season 2 soon. If you’re into the deconstruction of the superhero, you can’t miss it. But watch season 1 first!
The cheetah and I are flying over to watch you do a reading of your latest short story but we are a day early and now you are playing tour guide,what are we doing?
Well, I wouldn’t take you to the Griffith Observatory, even though you have a picture of me standing right in front of it. I’d take you places you wouldn’t expect to see, like past the apartment building where I parted ways with my virginity. If that failed to impress, at least the building is located in Santa Monica and we could mosey on over to the beach.
This would be a drive-by visit, for sure. Car culture is probably one of the main reasons why the coronavirus hasn’t decimated Los Angeles. I hate to drive, so I’d probably be yelling at other drivers and swearing a lot. But I’d drive you past the building on Sunset where my husband and I stood on the roof with our neighbors watching the city burn during the L.A. riots, then I’d swing by the place where “Wally” from Leave it to Beaver used to live (after the show). My childhood friend and I somehow sleuthed this out and sort of stalked him a few times when we were teenagers because we had a crush on him.
We’d probably see the Hollywood sign in the distance at some point, and I would dispel any notions that the actress Peg Entwistle jumped off the “H” in 1932 due to bad reviews. She was probably manic depressive. At least one photo of her looks eerily similar to Kirstin Dunst (or vice versa).
We would sail up the Pacific Coast Highway then continue through one of the canyons up to Mullholland Drive for sprawling city views. You’d be gripping your armrest with white knuckles and the Cheetah would be hiding under the seat as we sped around the tight turns. We’d have driven past iconic places all day like Jerry’s Deli and Pink’s and Musso & Frank’s but end up at Casa Vega, a lesser-known Mexican restaurant in the Valley where my mother first let me drink beer when I was 11 or 12, a bottle of which I’d immediately order.
I’d be exhausted from driving, so the beer would immediately go to my head and I’d be slurring slightly as I regaled you with stories of growing up in L.A. and our varied brushes with celebrities, from bumping into Ralph Macchio (really nice!) to Debbie Reynolds moving out soon after we’d moved in (my mom was convinced she’d moved out because we were black).
I hardly ever see anyone famous out in public anymore, though. Or it might just be that I’m hardly out in public anymore. But way before the self-isolating stuff that’s going on now. I’ve always been a loner and those tendencies have only amplified with each passing year. Speaking of self-isolation, though…I hope everybody takes good care of themselves and stays safe and stays well.
I like to thank Stacey so very much for agreeing to do this interview. As you can clearly see,the lady knows her way around a pen and paper,doesn’t she? I hope you all enjoyed her interview and will take the time to visit and FOLLOW her blog!!! You won’t be sorry….
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