Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Andrew Demcak – Andrew Demcak is an award-winning poet and novelist whose work has been widely published and anthologized both in print and on-line, and whose books have been featured by The American Library Association, The Lambda Literary Foundation, Verse Daily, The Best American Poetry blog, The Nervous Breakdown, and Poets/Artists. He has an M.F.A. from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA. He is currently Senior Librarian at Oakland Public Library. He lives with his husband, Roland, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Thanks so much, Andrew, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Andrew Demcak: I don’t really know; I’ve always written since an early age, plus I’m a great liar, which also helps if you want to be an author. I suppose I knew I was good at it when a piece of mock pornography I wrote called “Meat Man” (yep, it’s all that) at age eighteen was accepted by a college comparative literature journal. So I was already publishing in snooty academic places as a teenager.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
AD: I write what I write. My work tends to bend/blend genres but not by any forethought from me. That’s just the way my brain works. My ex-agent, Carolyn French, said that my first novel, If There’s a Heaven Above, which was nominated as Outstanding for older teens (17+) by The American Library Association, was a new genre she’d never read before – at the time there was no New Adult genre. So she pitched it to editors as something totally new.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
AD: I was primarily a poet when I started writing. My first published book, Catching Tigers In Red Weather, won the Three Candles Press Open Book Award, judged by the amazing Joan Larkin. It was a book of experimental writing, Ten X Ten poems: ten syllables per line, ten lines per poem. Here’s one published in DMQ Review:
Handhold (for a Zygote)
Welcome. You’ll be good. A jaw infused
with appointed energy, and a brain
the diameter of a crown. You will
not have paradise — not yet, right angles
and endless repairs of etceteras.
The world will be a lover’s apple to
fuss about, your heart an adding machine
with zero to solve. What it is to be
made of feelings. Somewhere ceiling tiles
fall out and break. See how it will happen —
you’ll lose your lovely coloring, and your
tiny spine will have to bend, bend, and bend.
Copyright © 2005
JSC: What’s your writing process?
AD: I write all the time in my head- I got the idea for a new novel yesterday when I was at a meeting. I spent three years thinking about my first Teen novel, Ghost Songs, before I wrote a single word down. Then it took me four weeks to write it and another year to edit/revise/beta test. I write in the morning; afternoons and evenings are out. I’m too tired then.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
AD: I can see the spirits of dead animals, mostly pets around here.
JSC: Do you write more on the romance side, or the speculative fiction side? Or both? And why?
AD: Depends on the story. If I need to tell it romantically, then romantic, etc. I don’t usually think about my work like that. I’m more like: this is the plot-complication story, this is the emotion-driven story. But speculative fiction, as well as horror, are two genres that I love seeing GLBTQ authors claiming as our own. Viva Michael McDowell!
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
AD: I have three lovely cats, Cindy, Woji, and Delta.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
AD: A bit of both. A novel is sort of the hole in the doughnut – I know where it begins and where it ends but I have no idea what happens in between until I gather up the characters and see what they do.
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
AD: Okonomiyaki day – Hooray for the Japanese savory pancake!
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
AD: I finished an adult paranormal novel, The Girl Beneath The Water, which I am looking for a new agent to represent. I also finished a first draft of the sequel to A Little Bit Langston, called Alpha Wave. I am also working on my revisionist mythology novel, Lampwick’s Tale, a retelling of Pinocchio from the point of view of his rebellious pal, Lampwick (or Candlewick as some translators have called Collodi’s character.) It’s a GLBTQ sci-fi love story set on another planet in another dimension, in another time.
And now for Andrew’s new book: A Little Bit Langston:
Being different is a challenge, especially for James Kerr.
He’s no average teenager. James begins to channel a dead writer’s poetry and then discovers he has the power to manipulate electricity. At the same time, romantic feelings for his best friend, Paul Schmitz, make him realize he’s gay. But he has little time to explore the drastic changes in his life before heartbreak strikes at the hands of Paul’s violent father. James is sent to The Paragon Academy, an institute specializing in juvenile paranormal research. There he meets Lumen Kim, the mysterious daughter of a famous Korean actress. Lumen’s psychic ability might just be the thing that helps James unlock the secrets of both his poems and the origins of his supernatural talents.
“I’M GLAD I can keep my Halloween candy here at your house. My mom would just throw it all out when she found it,” I said.
“I can’t believe she still does that,” Paul said.
“Every year. Now she says we’re too old for Halloween anyway.”
“Too old? No one is too old for free candy.”
“Anyway, my mom thinks sugar is bad for you at any age.”
“Sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
An enormous pile of miniature Snickers, Mounds, Milk Duds, Junior Mints, Mike and Ikes, and Almond Joys spread across Paul’s twin mattress in front of us. Paul and I were both ninth graders at Hardwick School, which, I admit, really did make us too old for trick-or-treating. I guess I was feeling a little bit guilty that we’d just fleeced the neighborhood of all this candy. We began to separate it into colorful piles.
“Ouch!” I said as Paul’s hand brushed mine and a green spark of electricity snapped between us.
“That must be from the carpet.”
“Or my electric personality.”
“That’s so weird too. It always happens to me.”
“Yeah. I wonder how many volts it was,” I said.
“Who knows? Let’s finish this up.”
Paul was fifteen already, a year and two weeks older than me. He’d been held back in the second grade at Silver Star Elementary School, and ever since then, we were both in the same grade together. Paul had grown much bigger than me too: puberty kicked in early, his vital glands making him taller, broader, and more muscular. In spite of his size, his dad still wanted to toughen him up. He made Paul lift weights three nights a week on a rickety exercise bench in their overpacked garage.
“What the hell are you two doing in there?” Paul’s father shouted as he banged his angry fist on the locked bedroom door.
Paul and I jumped up off the bed, startled by the loud sound. The doorknob rattled, turning left and then right, again and again.
“Nothing, Dad!” Paul answered as he rushed over to unlock the door.
“Open this goddamn door!” Paul’s dad yelled and pounded his fist again.
Paul’s father stood in the hallway staring daggers down at us, an open beer can sweating in his left hand. He looked big for a short man, tough and muscled. He had a tanned, leathery face from standing in the sun selling cars all day. On top of it all: he was just a mean son of a bitch.
I waited next to Paul’s bed paralyzed with fear.
“I warned you not to close this door when you had someone over!”
“Yeah, Dad, I know, but I didn’t want Tiffany to see what we were doing.”
“What’s your little sister got to do with it?”
“She’s always stealing things from me. I didn’t want her to see all the candy.”
Paul’s father looked at me, the candy, and then at Paul.
“No more closed doors, and it’s almost 8:00 p.m., time for your little pal, James, to go home.”
I knew Paul’s dad didn’t like me at all. He walked in on Paul and me constantly, always checking up on us. He was waiting for something to happen. But I could never figure out what. And the way he looked at me, like I came from another planet. I guess he thought I was a bad influence, even though Paul and I had never gotten into any real trouble or anything, at least not that his dad knew about. Paul wanted me to start lifting weights with him too, but his dad thought I was a weakling. Paul said his dad even called me a sissy. So we still hadn’t started any weight training. I doubted very much we ever would.
His dad was a total asshole.
“Well, you heard him. He wants you to go now,” Paul said, crestfallen, as he picked up an empty pillowcase and began herding the candy inside.
“I know. See you tomorrow on the bus.”
“Yeah. See you.”
Harmony Ink Press: Click Here
Amazon: Click Here
Andrew Demcak is an award-winning poet and novelist whose work has been widely published and anthologized both in print and on-line, and whose books have been featured by The American Library Association, The Lambda Literary Foundation, Verse Daily, The Best American Poetry blog, The Nervous Breakdown, and Poets/Artists. He has an M.F.A. from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA. He is currently Senior Librarian at Oakland Public Library. He lives with his husband, Roland, in the San Francisco Bay Area.