Interview with Solomon Deep
For our blog post this week we sit down with the winner of our short story contest, Solomon Deep. He talks to us about oral storytelling, video games and what his favorite book would be if he had to choose.
Upliterate: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Solomon Deep: I am a writer, musician, and actor that spends my time between Northampton, Massachusetts, New York City, and recently, Montreal. I have published two novels, Elements and Oedipussy, and a collection of stories, He, Felt Scurrility. I also write and perform in a new old time radio show since 2010 called FortNight. I was born in England, spent my youth in Memphis, and have spent most of my life in the northeast.
U: What got you started writing?
SD: There are probably two major influences. The first is easily the public library. I remember getting my first library card, and my mother telling me I was allowed to take out anything I wanted. She never tried to steer me in any direction, and I would obsessively borrow these book-and-record sets, Maurice Sendak, and Shel Silverstein as they were released. I explicitly remember ripping apart the library’s new copy of The Missing Piece to reunite the circle with his piece, and mom needing to buy another copy. Regardless, from the moment I got that card, I would bring stacks of books home every week and absolutely devour them. I moved to the adult section way too early, but I always saw this card, my relationship with the librarians, and books by the truckload as a daily adventure. In tandem with my obsession with books, the second influence was my teachers. They started my thirst to leave my mark on the world as early as I could write. I think I remember making fan fiction of some of my favorite characters, such as crafting little chapbooks to add to Sendak’s Nutshell Library or Beatrix Potter animal adventures. As my reading tastes evolved, so did my stories. Of course, I was in the adult section way too early, and so my mind and my universe expanded. It was magic. Simply put, I was always a writer.
U: What are you writing these days?
SD: I just finished the first draft of a novel based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, and I am letting it cool down a bit before I revisit it. I am also finally gaining some traction and making major progress with the book that I have been working on since I finished and published my first novel, Elements. It has taken twelve years to write this book. It is a fictional biography of an American expatriate who wants to find fame through his art. He gets exactly what he wanted, but also regrets his choices to change everything in his life to get there.
U: Why do you write?
SD: I write because I have no other choice but to write. I see it as one of the miracles of my existence that I can store information outside of my body that will outlast me. To create people that have never existed, and to touch and entertain my audience beyond my existence, is a gift that I take advantage of every single day. I write like my life depends on it, because my life depends on it.
U: What’s your favorite book?
SD: Oh, there are so many choices that to narrow it down to one is very difficult. If I was only allowed one, it would be The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. If I were allowed a little wiggle room, I would add Wuthering Heights, Shakespeare, A Confederacy of Dunces, Slaughterhouse Five, Great Expectations, and Infinite Jest.
U: What writing advice can you give our users?
SD: It seems so cliche, but write. Write, write, write, write, write. No one else is going to tell your story, and when you are gone, so is your voice. When I am facing difficult times, I always wish that my father or grandfathers kept diaries so I could read their life in their voice and perhaps find some answers to questions that don’t come in the user manual for living that we never get. But think of this — write a little each day to be left behind and to outlast you. Write about your mundane cereal, or write the science fiction epic bottled up inside you. But no matter what, write damn you. There already is so little time left.
U: Your short story revolves around video games. Are you a gamer yourself?
SD: That absolutely kills me. I do play videogames occasionally, and I wish there were more hours in the day to play. I bought a new XBOX just to play Fallout 4 when it was released, but since I only have a little time each week to play, it is going to last me quite a while. I love where we are now, though. It is clearly a new golden era in storytelling and gaming. I absolutely fell into Alan Wake and the Bioshock series of games.
U: What was the inspiration behind “Blow/Refresh”?
SD: In all of my work, oral history is a very strong component to how I hope my writing and my characters sound. I was having a discussion with a friend about his fatherhood, and he was talking about how many Nintendos he had as a child. He grew up with the console, and I thought it was so interesting that he had so many — it seemed like he was really lucky. I asked him to tell me about each of them, and as the story uncovered his past, it was sort of a sad nostalgia that he carried with his games and his ritual of having to blow on the cartridges and reset the secondhand machines while everything around him was so confusing and out of his control. I asked him if I could retell the story in my writing, and he was thrilled that I would use him as a subject since he loves my work. He thought that there was a lot of damage done to him, and he was clearly working toward making everything right with his child. I wanted to capture his renewal though the lessons of his parents and his connection to these sad, cold consoles that were somehow the only comfort he had. It seemed like a beautiful little subject to explore.
U: Why did you choose to use a non-linear narrative for “Blow/Refresh”?
SD: That is an interesting question. First, there were the four intersecting storylines. I tried to tell them in four parts, but with each of the four parts having a clean beginning, middle, and end left something unsatisfying when one got to the end of the first story. I was wondering, how could I get the audience to want to keep reading it after that? When I saw the contest and started playing around with your platform, a little lightning bolt came when I played around with the idea of “chapters” even though it is just one short story. I had just finished Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine by Diane Williams, and in her book she presents quite a few perfect, bite-sized micro-fiction pieces that work on their own. I thought that there must be a logical way to use images and snippets of the narrative to tell miniature stories that all contributed to a whole in much the same way. After a little cutting, dividing, and using your platform to add some clever little titles (which I wouldn’t normally consider doing), it just seemed to work.
U: Where do you want your writing to take you? Any long-term goals in writing?
SD: I’ll keep plugging away at it. My long term goal is to live long enough to make sure I can tell all of my stories. I would love for my work to have a broader reach and allow me to expand my live event offerings in some new, broad, accessible, and interesting ways. I want to be like Homer or Garrison Keillor, moving from town to town, entrancing audiences of different landscapes and cultures. I want to meet everyone, break bread, crush a cup of wine, and share stories. I want to continue to publish but also have the time and the investment that would allow for this true audience experience that is usually reserved for the music industry. Until then, the home version is available to pick up for your bookshelf and here on Upliterate, and I’ll continue to work to find a way to expand my work in a variety of ways.