In the last interview I conducted for The Big Thrill, I was revelling in uncovering the hidden lives of my fellow ITW authors, finding out about their surprising skills and interests. Little did I guess that my latest interviewee would combine a passion for writing with a career as a sculptor.
Guinotte, is the creative process very different for those two media?
Not that different, actually. I’ve always said about the sculpture that it happens in the process, and it does. I start out with a thought about what the thing is going to be, but it often goes in another direction. Sometimes a startlingly different direction. If it’s a horse it will end up as a horse, but often not the horse it started to be. If it’s abstract, no telling where it’s going or how big it will be. An art news publication called me “a cross between Rube Goldberg and John Chamberlain” and I like that a lot.
What’s the most usual reaction to your sculptures?
Either “I could do that,” or “Where do you get your ideas?” Seriously, the reactions are all over the place, but mostly real positive and nice to hear. At every opening for a solo show, I’m gratified to see familiar faces of those who actually want to see the latest that I’ve done, and some of those are buyers, patrons. Some of them have several pieces, and that’s saying a lot because sculpture takes up more room than some can spare. I do pieces with smaller footprints for people with less space, and they do buy them.
The fact is, I’d do the same things even if nobody liked them. At openings with free booze, you learn to mentally trim the effusiveness to a realistic, somewhat positive response. Quite often the best response to a nonrepresentational piece is “I can’t explain it, but I get it.” The design has to work on some level above the intrinsic interest of the materials in order to be regarded as art, I think. That’s not easy to accomplish, but sometimes I feel I do.
When you write, do you plot to the last degree or fly by the seat of your pants?
Like the sculpture, I start with a rough idea, and the rest happens in the process.
Have you had an occasion when a character went off on a tangent, and what did you do?
Oh yes; I follow him or her with humility and great interest. I’m working on a book now where the protagonist keeps doing odd things, so I had to go into his backstory, and his parents’ and that began to explain some things. His folks were dreamers, fun-seekers, adventurers, spendthrifts, and in his attempts to rigidify or structure his life to be unlike them, he discovers the impossibility of a totally planned existence. He relaxes into some of their spontaneity and begins to like it.
I’m afraid what I meant to be noir and hardboiled is becoming more blithe than planned. I think I’ll just follow that guy. He’s a little livelier this way. It’s happened before, and I’ve loosened the reins. I can’t say if it works better or not, but the short stories have been picked up. Maybe the novels will, too. The same publisher of RUINED DAYS has a book of short stories of mine titled Resume Speed. Most of those stories have been in literary reviews, giving them some validity, and many have characters that didn’t do just as I’d planned.
You write both short stories and novels. Two very different kettles of fish. What challenges do they both present?
Staying in the room to work on them. They both require that, as you well know, as do all the books and stories you’ve written. However, when I get stuck, I often go start up the welder and come back to the story with a degree of freshness, as it was well out of my conscious mind. Some other part of my brainpan dealt with it. Or not.
Sometimes I’m writing to a specific number of words, say for a flash fiction contest, and that is a discipline in itself. I used to write TV commercials for Toyota back in Los Angeles and the strictures and corridors were quite confining—but within those requisites, you could find some freedom and play with it. And on a print ad, an art director might want me to cut 36 characters so his design would fit right. I always did and it never hurt the copy. (To my chagrin.) I’ve killed a lot of darlings. I thought that would end when I wrote what I damn well pleased. Hahahaha.
The first thing that struck me about RUINED DAYS was the introductory quote from Cervantes. Why him?
Well, Cervantes, of course, is famous for Don Quixote, and this quest of the protagonist is largely quixotic. In looking up Cervantes quotes, I came upon the one that seemed so perfect, and that’s that. Funny, I’ve looked for it since and can’t locate it. But I did once and I’m sticking to that.
Readers—and authors—have very different views on the role of love/sex in a crime story. What’s your opinion?
Love/sex in a crime story: RUINED DAYS and L.A. Hardscape (which will come out a bit later, I hope) both feature protagonists who fall for great women. These men can take care of themselves, thus following the formula for hard guys, but they also complicate their lives with human proclivities. My protagonists could be viewed as antiheroes but not in the vein that seems to be gaining in popularity. They are not without conscience or a sense of morality. Love and sex, attraction to the opposite sex, play a part in things I write. And a tolerance for other practices, as well. The protagonists are neutral to LGBT folks in a live, let live way.
There are some things in RUINED DAYS—cars, names, brands—that create a real sense of place. As an author, what touches do you use to transport readers to another setting?
Atmospherics are important to me as a reader, and I try to give readers a sense of the place and time of what’s going on. The quality of light, the time of day, some descriptive elements—the kind of car involved in a scene, what people are wearing, if it’s uncomfortably humid, hot or cold, wet paving stones, odours, things that affect the senses in passing. Sometimes I’ll write a scene and it’s so real to me, but if I examine it, I find that the reader might not “be there” with me on what’s going on. I’ll add the touches that I think might help them see what I’m seeing, feel it better.
And with that answer, we’d better let Guinotte get back into the room with his characters and start sculpting some more memorable scenes!
G. Wise has been a creative director in advertising most of his working life. In his youth he put forth effort as a bullrider, ironworker, laborer, funeral home pickup person, bartender, truckdriver, postal worker, ice house worker, paving field engineer. A staid museum director called him raffish, which he enthusiastically embraced (the observation, not the director). Of course, he took up writing fiction.
Novel, “Ruined Days,” and Short story collection, “Resume Speed” under publishing contract.
His work has appeared in Crime Factory Review, Stymie, Telling Our Stories Press Anthology, Opium, Negative Suck, Newfound Journal, The MacGuffin, Weather-themed fiction anthology by Imagination and Place Press, Verdad, Stickman Review, Snark (Illusion), Atticus Review, Dark Matter Journal, Writers Tribe Review, LA, The Dying Goose, Amarillo Bay, HOOT, Santa Fe Writers Project, Prick of the Spindle, Gravel Literary Journal, Flyover Country Review, Cactus Press,Thrice Fiction Magazine, WORK Literary Magazine, Blacktop Passages, Best New Writers Anthology 2015, Randomly Accessed Poetics, Dirty Chai, Commuter Lit, Hypertext Magazine, Kentucky Review.
Wise is a sculptor, sometimes in welded steel, sometimes in words. Educated at Westminster College, University of Arkansas, Kansas City Art Institute.Tweet him @noirbut.