Saturday, March 31, 2007
Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing his views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.
Today’s interview is with Brad Listi. He is the author of Attention. Deficit. Disorder and is a Los Angeles Times Bestseller.
Attention. Deficit. Disorder.is a moving debut novel of Mr. Listi. The protagonist, twenty year old Wayne Fencer, a defeated day-trader and idling pizza delivery boy with a B.F.A. in avant-garde filmmaking, attends the funeral of an ex-girlfriend in San Francisco. She has committed suicide, and he learns that she was pregnant with his child at the time of her suicide. Wayne can find few words of condolence and instead strafes the reader with a fusillade of facts on suicide, death and mourning.
Desperate to understand and haunted by regret, Wayne begins a journey that takes him up and down the East Coast (on foot) and across the American West (in an RV), before finally arriving at the Costco Soulmate Trading Outpost in the middle of the Black Rock Desert. Along the way, Wayne's journey becomes a series of meditations on modern life, drawing on everything from the ancient philosophy of Siddhartha Gautama to a visit with Gregorio Fuentes, Hemingway's fishing guide and inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea.
Mr. Listi's novel is a dazzling exploration of love, death, escape, home, and maturation set in the era of information overload, “Attention. Deficit. Disorder.” is highly original and compelling.
He lives in Los Angeles, and teaches creative writing at Santa Monica College. He just completed the manuscript for his second novel, entitled “City of Champions.”
E.I. Thank you for stopping by and please tell us more about BRAD LISTI -- the man behind the author.
B. Listi: I ACTUALLY KIND OF LIKE CHIHUAHUAS. AND I LIKE IT WHEN PEOPLE GIVE ANIMALS VERY PEDESTRIAN HUMAN NAMES, LIKE ‘RICK’ OR ‘ALAN.’
E.I. What do you have in common with your protagonist, Wayne?
B. Listi: A TON OF THINGS, NATURALLY. IT’S AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FICTION. A LOT OF WHAT WAYNE THINKS AND FEELS IN THE BOOK ARE THINGS THAT I HAVE THOUGHT OR FELT AT ONE POINT OR ANOTHER.
E. I. How did you come up with the idea for your latest novel 'Attention. Deficit. Disorder.?
B. Listi: THE STORY HAS ITS POINT OF ORIGIN IN THE SUICIDE OF ONE OF MY FRIENDS YEARS AGO. THAT WAS WHAT SET ME IN THE DIRECTION OF THE STORY. I LOST A FRIEND TO SUICIDE WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE. IT WAS A MONUMENTAL BUMMER.
AS FAR AS ACTUAL PLOT IS CONCERNED, I WOULD SAY IT HAS TO DO WITH PATIENCE AND TIME MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE. THE PLOT EMERGED GRADUALLY, AS I SAT AT THE KEYBOARD DAY AFTER DAY. AND IT WAS REFINED DURING SEVERAL REVISIONS.
E. I. Would you call yourself a plotter or a planner?
B. Listi: NO. I WORK MORE INTUITIVELY. WHEN I STARTED THE NOVEL, I HAD A GENERAL IDEA OF THE STORY AND WHERE IT WOULD PROBABLY END, BUT BASICALLY I JUST MADE IT UP AS I WENT ALONG. FINGER-PAINTING IN THE DARK, DAY AFTER DAY.
E. I.Is research one of your favorite parts of writing your book? Share with us some of your favorite "discoveries" --- of any kind --- when you were researching for one of your books.
B. Listi: RESEARCH CAN BE FUN; IT CAN ALSO BE TEDIOUS. OFTEN, IT’S BOTH.
WITH ‘ATTENTION. DEFICIT. DISORDER.’, I HAD SOME PRETTY UNBELIEVABLE EXPERIENCES WHILE RESEARCHING THE NONFICTION SECTIONS OF THE NOVEL. ODD SYNCHRONICITIES BETWEEN THE PEOPLE AND THINGS I WAS RESEARCHING AND THE PLOT AND THE THEMES OF MY NOVEL.
TAKE BENTON MACKAYE, FOR INSTANCE. THE FOUNDER OF THE APPLACHIAN TRAIL. HIS WIFE COMMITTED SUICIDE. JUMPED OFF A BRIDGE INTO THE EAST RIVER. I DIDN’T KNOW THAT UNTIL I WAS WAIST-DEEP INTO THE NOVEL AND STARTED WRITING UP THE BENTON MACKAYE SECTION ON A WHIM. WHEN I READ THAT HIS WIFE HAD OFFED HERSELF, AND THAT THIS, MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, WAS THE EMOTIONAL IMPETUS FOR HIS CREATION OF THE TRAIL, IT GAVE ME THE GOOSE BUMPS. THE PARALLELS BETWEEN HIS LIFE AND WAYNE’S LIFE WERE STRIKING.
E. I. How much real-life do you put into your fiction? Is there much “you” in there?
B. Listi: I PUT A LOT OF REAL LIFE IN THERE. THE BOOK IS ALL ME. BUT IT’S ALSO ALL FICTION. I MADE IT UP USING THE RAW MATERIALS OF MY LIFE.
E. I. Can you tell us a little about your writing schedule, editing and revision process, novel development, etc.? How long does it take you to write a story?
B. Listi: I WORKED FOR SEVERAL YEARS TRYING TO LEARN HOW TO WRITE FICTION. MY APPRENTICESHIP. THE VERSION OF ‘ATTENTION. DEFICIT. DISORDER.’ THAT WAS PUBLISHED WAS WRITTEN, IN FIRST DRAFT FORM, IN ABOUT SIX MONTHS. BUT IT’S MISLEADING TO SAY THAT THE BOOK WAS WRITTEN IN SIX MONTHS, BECAUSE IT TOOK ME SIX YEARS TO GET TO THE POINT WHERE I COULD WRITE THE BOOK IN SIX MONTHS.
AS TO MY WORK SCHEDULE: I WRITE EVERYDAY, OR CLOSE TO IT, AND I WORK BEST EARLY IN THE MORNING.
E. I. Please tell your fans about your latest book “Attention. Deficit. Disorder.”and what we can expect from your characters.
B. Listi: ‘ATTENTION. DEFICIT. DISORDER.’ IS A NOVEL ABOUT HOW DIFFICULT IT CAN SOMETIMES BE TO FIND MEANING IN THE AGE OF INFORMATION. IT’S A ROAD NOVEL. IT’S A PICARESQUE. IT’S ABOUT A GUY WHO LOSES HIS EX-GIRLFRIEND TO SUICIDE. IT’S ABOUT A GUY WHO WANTS TO SHAVE HIS HEAD FOR REASONS HE CAN’T EXPLAIN. AND IT’S ABOUT CUBA, HOOKERS, PIZZA, WEED, FREEZERS, MENTALLY DISABLED CAJUNS, SKYDIVING, SPELUNKING, NEW YORK CITY, SAND, AND FIRE.
E. I. Wayne is a real handful. How did you approach writing this character? Did you plan him out or did he evolve as you wrote the book?
B. Listi: HE EVOLVED AS I WROTE THE BOOK. HE IS A NATURAL OUTGROWTH OF ME WHEN I WAS TWENTY-TWO YEARS OLD. I HAD A LOT OF EXPERIENCE TO DRAW ON.
E. I. Would you like to close the interview with any of your writing tip to other young aspiring authors?
B. Listi: BE UNREASONABLE. REASONABLE PEOPLE DON’T SUCCEED AS WRITERS. WRITING, AS A PROFESSION, ISN’T A ‘REASONABLE’ THING TO PURSUE. EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT. MOST PEOPLE WHO TRY THIS WIND UP POOR AND HUNGRY. THE ODDS ARE STACKED AGAINST YOU. YET SOME PEOPLE MAKE IT JUST FINE, AND A FEW VERY LUCKY PEOPLE MAKE A KILLING AT IT. YOU HAVE TO BE UNREASONABLE ENOUGH TO BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN BE ONE OF THESE PEOPLE. AND YOU HAVE TO MAINTAIN THAT LEVEL OF UNREASONABLE BELIEF FOR MANY YEARS. DAMN THE ODDS. AND DAMN THE TORPEDOES.
UNREASONABLE PEOPLE, AS A GENERAL RULE, ARE AGENTS OF CHANGE. THEY’RE WHAT MAKE THE WORLD TURN. THEY’RE THE PEOPLE WHO BUILD ROCKET SHIPS TO THE MOON, THE PEOPLE WHO INSIST ON REALIZING SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE VISIONS, AGAINST ALL ODDS. SO DON’T EVER LET ANYONE TELL YOU THAT BEING UNREASONABLE IS IGNOBLE OR DUMB. IT CAN BE A MONUMENTAL PAIN IN THE ASS, YES, AND IT CAN BE PAINFUL AND DIFFICULT AND FRAUGHT WITH PERIL. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, IT’S THE HERO’S WAY TO GO. SO LEAN INTO IT.
To learn more about Brad Listi, please visit him at:
Posted by E. I. Johnson at 11:09 PM