Here is a 1/2 Dozen
with my dear friend (from way back)
His story collection THE DEATH OF BONNIE AND CLYDE and his novel GO LOVE came out this past year.
(GO LOVE is a triumphant novel that I read early on. Truly wonderful. Click here to read a Q and A with Gills in Psychology Today -- in take a look at his process.)
I adore Gills and his brilliant writerly soul!
Current obsessions—literary or otherwise.
I play guitar and sing in a band that is currently working up a cover of Gregg Allman's cover of Sleepy John Estes' "Floating Bridge," this killer blues song from the 30's about a near death experience in muddy water. Allman's version appeared on Youtube just after his own near death from liver failure and subsequent transplant. That edge comes through--his voice shakes, and I believe. Now, I'm rehearsing the song, and it's under my skin, that eerie bridge, the tremolo, what seeps between.
Writing Tip #2.
Get up at 4:30 a.m., turn on your machine, and go. Your inner-censor is turned off then and you can knock out a chunk before the sun even rises--hard to fuck up a day like that. Revise by the hard light of day. In bed by 8:30 p.m. Do it all again.
What kind of child were you, inside of what kind of childhood, and how did it shape you as a writer?
I grew up in the sticks of Lonoke County, Arkansas. None of my people had ever gone to college, much less made it much past the lipstick line at the Maybelline factory, or the driver's seat of a longnose Peterbilt. When my step-father was off wherever he went for months, I built rabbit traps and set them on the thinly winding paths in the fields. They’re naturally curious, rabbits, so no bait was needed–just a box with a trap door, and a little trip stick stuck through a hole. All winter of my eighth-grade year, when Moma got depressed and stayed in bed through Thanksgiving and Christmas, my brother and sisters and I ate like kings–I learned to cook rabbit ten different ways, how to find wild onions and gig bullfrog, trotline catfish. Squirrel and flour dumplings was my brother’s favorite, and we never got too skinny. My friends the Mayfields, Cherokee Indians from the Trail of Tears, poached deer all year long, and there was always a hog in a pen just inside the hill thicket, they’ll eat anything at all, including what’s left of the trotlined catfish and rabbit guts. I suppose I learned early that what you need is always close at hand if you just open your eyes. Poor people either get smart or die. I’ve always heard that rabbit’s good for the brain.
What’s your reading life like? Do you have any current favorites or sleepers that may have flown under our radar?
For about thirty years I've been reading Lao Tzu everyday, and I'm maybe about to get it, though probably not. The Tao that can be spoken of is not the Tao... Humbling stuff, really.
What other jobs have you had -- other than writing or teaching writing? Did one of these help shape you as a writer?
I've poured concrete, roofed, framed, insulated, plumbed, bricked, painted and done trim and fine cabinet work--pretty much the whole shibang of construction, and every one of those jobs is immediately useful to the writer. Then, when you get off work, go fishing, one cast after another over blue water, until the moment comes when the drag flies and you've hooked something ancient and beautiful. I've also worked at a chicken plant which is a bunch of shit--also useful, knowing about that, maybe.
If you teach the craft of writing, why do you do it -- other than cash?
It beats the Jesus out of laying bricks in Lonoke County.