Sunday Jul 14

PujolasPat Pat Pujolas is the author of the novel “Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World” (Independent Talent Group, 2012). He lives in Akron, Ohio.

Pat Pujolas Interview, with Meg Tuite

The first story I read of Pat Pujolas both haunted and transplanted me in to his character’s worlds but once in, there was no getting out, nor wanting to get out! That is what compels most of us to write. When you read a story that gets inside you, changes you, acknowledges a part of you and never leaves. A story so alive that it mesmerizes and we live and die a bit while reading it. Pat Pujolas has done it again in this featured story, “I Might Be Done,” and if you haven’t read his novel, “Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World,” then give yourself a gift by buying a copy. Here is the link.

Damn, Pat, I am a huge fan! What a beauty this story is! It weaves and punches and dances like Muhammad Ali. I love these characters –the narrator, the woman he loves, Gary Garrison and Mr. Ping. Once again, you have created an unforgettable story that brings in so many facets of the golden gate bridge, which is definitely a main character in this story. Can you give me some background for your inspiration in writing this story?

I lived in San Francisco for three and a half years, and I have always been fascinated by the Golden Gate Bridge—as a marvel of engineering, as a beautiful tourist attraction, and as a common destination for ending one’s life. I always knew that one day I would write a story where the bridge played a prominent role, but I was never sure quite how. Then I stumbled upon the characters you mention above, and the story began unfolding.

Here are some quotes from the story that I had to highlight:

“Sometimes in the morning, dense white fog from the ocean tries to sneak past the Golden Gate Bridge, but inevitably, the cloud gets snagged on the massive orange bridge towers; it tears and pulls away like cotton candy, vaporous, floating in mid-air, and it might be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Officially, the bridge’s vermilion color has been dubbed “International Orange,” chosen for its visibility in the fog. The Golden Gate is the most photographed bridge in the world and the second most common site in the world for suicide.”

““They never finish painting it,” the old man said. “As soon as they reach the other side, it’s time to start painting it again. That’s how big it is.””

““You want to hear something beautiful about that bridge?” Ping asked. “I’ll tell you something beautiful. Three men lived. On a day when ten men died, three men lived.””

“Life and death, beauty and sorrow, they’re all up there on the same scaffolding. There’s your goddamned metaphor.””

In your work, do the characters come to mind first? Or do you think of the research? Of the fascination with the bridge and all that it encompasses? Can you speak a bit about your process?

I always start with a character and a unique voice. This story was initially written as part of a larger piece, but then took on a life of its own, as stories tend to do. I knew I wanted a character at the end of his rope, someone who might be considering suicide; my job was to give him a backstory and a tragedy. The sad doctor seemed a perfect venue for recounting the trajectory of a failed romance and career.

My process for writing short stories: pretend like you’re writing a suicide note. Each and every word should be utterly crucial and essential. Because in the end, how many things are worth mentioning?

The structure is a beautifully woven quilt. Did you start in first person? Are you a visual writer? I’d love to hear how it moves in time for you? How long does a story like this one stay with you before you said, yes, it’s ready to go out into the world?

The story’s structure is a bridge with a faulty middle. There are two timelines and each runs in an opposite direction—the memories of his relationship start at the end and run toward the beginning, while the main narrative runs from beginning to end. Somewhere in the middle is the fuzzy part, the broken part where one reality becomes inevitable.

This particular piece took me about 5-6 weeks to write, and another 2-3 to revise. I like to sit with things longer than most, and get lots of feedback from other writers I trust. When I read it out loud and it sounds like a finished piece, I start submitting.

Who are your true inspirations: writers, musicians, films, family, friends?

People who are kind to others, both in words and actions, regardless of religious affiliation. People like my wife, my father-in-law, my former boss, my daughters. People like yourself, Meg. And Ken too!

Believe it or not, I’m pretty much tone deaf, and so I rarely listen to music; I am much more comfortable in silence. Some people think that’s weird. And they’re probably correct.

I think that’s great! I am all for silence, especially when writing.

What are some books that you would recommend to other writers for inspiration? (I will get a copy of every book you put on this list, no question!)

Get out of the USA! Seriously, I feel like America is stuck in a time warp of beautifully written, highly expected fiction. Everyone is trying to be the next Alice Munro, George Saunders, or Lorrie Moore. It’s time to change things up. Here are seven outstanding novels from around the world:

The Savage Detectives by Bolano
Life of an Unknown Man by Makine
Blindness by Saramago
Disgrace by Coetzee
Too Loud a Solitude by Hrabal
The Hunger Angel by Muller
The Year of the Hare by Paasilinna

I look forward to reading those. Coetzee’s “Disgrace” is the only one I’ve read on your list and loved it. Who are you reading at this time?

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolano. I believe Bolano is the most profound writer of this century, and possibly of all time. He examines violence and sex, love and beauty, revenge and forgiveness, with a masterful, unflinching eye. Bolano should be required reading for all Creative Writing students and/or human beings.

What would you say to a writer who is ready to start sending their work out for publication?

Don’t do it for money. Or for fame. Do it because you love writing. And because 100 fans are enough.

Yes, to that! We sometimes forget that it’s the process of writing that keeps us sane and I do love teaching.

I know you are a teacher. I wish I could take one of your classes! Do you enjoy it and how does it affect the work that you produce?

(Psssst, Meg, I’m not a teacher. Though I’m flattered you thought so!!!)

Sorry about that Pat. I’m laughing! I don’t know where I got that idea from. Okay, so I wish you were a teacher! You would be amazing!

What are your views on the juggling act of writer and then promoter of your books published in the Indie Press, and also thoughts on getting an agent? It’s two separate worlds that writers are expected to encompass.

I think both routes should be pursued. I couldn’t get an agent for Lagowski via the traditional path, so I used Indie Press. Then, once Publisher’s Weekly gave that novel a starred review, I had agents contacting me. The best advice is to put as many fishing lines in the water (traditional and non), and see which one(s) get a nibble.

You are also a father of one precious daughter! How do you set up your schedule for writing?

Yeah, she’s pretty great. And a fine author at age 7! Honestly, I’d much rather play checkers with her than bang away on a keyboard in solitude. But you know, like anything else, you find a way. If you really love doing it, you find a way.

You are one of my favorite writers out there! Are you working on a collection or a novel at this time?

Of course. I’m always working on something, a screenplay, a short story, a humor article, a kid’s book, another novel. The only questions: which will I finish first? And when will I finish it? Could be this month. Could be next year. As you know, writing is a sickness, and you can’t put aside a sickness.

Absolutely. Do you have a quote that speaks to you as a person and a writer?

“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” –Charles Bukowski

That’s a beauty and so damn true!

Thank you so much, Pat, for sending Connotation Press another one of your brilliant stories! What a gift! And for answering all of these questions! Cheers to you from the desert, my friend!

Thank YOU, Meg. I’m honored to be included among such talented writers and staff members. Cheers to you from not-so-sunny Akron, Ohio.



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