1:1 — Logan Theissen
Over the next few weeks, 1:1000 will take you behind the scenes with our core writing and editorial team. We’ll show you more about what makes these writers tick (or maybe twitch).
In our final interview, Erin Justice sits down with Logan Theissen, the author behind “What the Factory Makes” and “Wind Howl Hold Steady.” A fan of Breaking Bad and Kanye, he finds inspiration in many forms.
1:1000: This is such a dumb first question, but inquiring minds want to know. The paella in Spain…why was it amazing? I’ve wondered about it since I read your bio on our contributors page.
LOGAN THEISSEN: Haha. That is most certainly not a dumb question. I had paella in San Sebastian, Spain on a summer night by the beach when I was about 22. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to Europe with some friends of mine, and Spain was the end of our trip. I had a romantic notion of San Sebastian based mostly off Hemingway, and was in no mood to have that illusion shattered. We heard of this restaurant down an alley right off the beach, searched for it for hours, and upon finding it we had their paella along with a hefty dose of sangria wine. It was served on the biggest dish I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m a philistine when it comes to food, so in the end, my love of that particular Spanish paella has nothing to do with how it tasted. Of course it was delicious; fresh, spicy, unlike anything a twenty-something Oklahoman had ever experienced. But ultimately, the memory and nostalgia of that night and that trip, has inexorably been linked to a simple Spanish dish that I’ll never experience again.
1:1000: That sounds like an amazing experience all around. You mention (by name or description) a variety of settings and locations. Do you like to travel?
LT: I have a love/hate relationship with traveling. I love being new places, and experiencing new things. I think it can make you a wiser individual. But on the other hand, I’m not a fan of crowds, airports, lines, etc. (Who is?) Like anyone else, I can get frustrated with the process. Recently I saw a Louis C.K. joke where he implores you to remember how fortunate you are to be flying (or traveling) at all, so now I try to keep that in mind. I’ve been very, very lucky to go to some pretty cool places, so it’s important for me to remember that it’s a gift to have these experiences, and I shouldn’t spend them stressed or bitchy. I should be happy to be in the Louvre at all, regardless of the global bump and grind of my fellow tourists. They’re just trying to do the same things I am.
1:1000: You write with a range of genres, tones, and subjects (just read “The Ballad of Maria” and “The Memory Assassin” back-to-back) but there’s always gritty, raw emotion captured. Is that something that emerges in the first draft, or does it build over time (and revisions)?
LT: It usually emerges in the first draft. With flash fiction, I don’t usually do much revising. I’ve found that when I’m on a roll and feeling good, most of what I want to say comes out that first time. If I’m not satisfied with something I’ll of course tinker a bit to get where I want to be tone/emotion-wise, but (for better or worse) I’ve completely trashed first drafts before. When that happens I’ll try again with a new story; a new plot or device to frame the tone and idea I’m trying to get across. Ultimately, if the story isn’t working it’s the fault of the writing, and I’m okay giving up bad writing and trying something new.
1:1000: Wow. I applaud you for that. It’s taken me years — literally — to give up bad writing. Is there anything you discarded that you’ve ever considered coming back to, or found elements creeping into other pieces?
LT: Sure. I don’t think I have a habit of recycling sentences, paragraphs, or anything that specific. But I’ll often write a completely different version of a story or idea I have. I like messing with tone so that the plot points are the same, but the story is something new.
1:1000: How do you select images for your stories?
LT: I usually have a pretty good idea of the story I want to write, so I find photos that I think are cool and could fit the mood that I’m trying to create in the writing. From there, I usually select a detail from the picture and incorporate it into the story somehow. Occasionally, I’ll write the story first and then find a picture that I think accompanies it. It’s just a personal preference on my end.
1:1000: In terms of the process and those details, what was your favorite piece to write?
LT: “Buggies.” For sure. I saw the picture and immediately thought “alien ship.” I had been wanting to write something about aliens, but I tried a few different angles, futuristic type stuff, World War Z type of stuff, and it just wasn’t coming out. A week or so later I was driving back to Austin from San Antonio at like 2am, and I was listening to a history podcast called Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History (which is great). The episode was on WWI and the introduction of chemical warfare. There was a journal entry from a soldier on the ground that Carlin read very dramatically. Anyway, the idea hit somewhere on I-35, and I liked the notion of old school soldiers in a futuristic, alien, sort of environment. From there the writing of it was pretty easy. I just had a good time with it.
1:1000: What inspires you?
LT: I have always been inspired by other authors and books. Certain writing has meant something to me throughout my life, and I’m always striving to create something that inspires someone else. Like a lot of writers, I also love movies, so they are a constant source of inspiration as well. Lastly, I would say hard work really inspires me, and having grit and determination to get what you want. Sometimes I’m a bit lazy, so I try to surround myself with people that are badasses; people who get shit done. They inspire me in ways that go beyond writing.
1:1000: What’s the best thing you’ve read/watched/listened to all year?
LT: I’m not very good at these questions, as I usually really like a lot of stuff. I recently read George Saunders’ Tenth of December: Stories. It was my first time reading Saunders. It was really incredible. I’ve been into short stories lately, so I also read Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House. It was my first time with Vonnegut’s short stories and what he does with such a limited amount of time is astounding. I don’t know if it’s this year, but the last bit of Breaking Bad was really, really great; pretty much perfect in fact. My favorite film of the year has probably been Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which was incredible on a technical scale and I like it when artists push themselves to try something different. Musically, I try to be as eclectic as possible. There’s SO MUCH good music out there, so many great artists. I always feel like I’m missing out on something great. Sturgill Simpson’s new record Metamodern Sounds in Country Music has been my favorite this year. It does absolutely everything I want a great record to do. It’s been my summer soundtrack down here in Texas. Of course, if Kanye releases anything this year that will take the year-end crown. I had to get a Kanye reference in here. Ridiculous but necessary; just like Yeezy.
1:1000: That’s a perfect description. Got a favorite lyric to leave us with?
LT: Soooo… I definitely took longer to answer this question than the others combined. Is that bad? (Thinking…) Of course it’s not bad! It’s Kanye! Anyway, I have two that are suitable for print:
Roc-A-Fella chain, yeah that’s my rapper style
Rosary piece, yeah that’s my Catholic style
Red and white Ones, yeah that’s my Kappa style
I’m ahead of my time, sometimes years out
So the powers that be won’t let me get my ideas out
And that make me wanna get my advance out
And move to Oklahoma and just live at my aunt’s house
Mom and Dad? You’re welcome.
Originally published at www.oneforonethousand.com on September 11, 2014.