Chris Minnick is the author of Ferment; here is a link to his website:
Q: What is Ferment about?
A: Ferment is about a guy who grows up in the circus, and then spends his adult life running away from it.
Q: What made you want to write about carnival life?
A: I spend about 5 years writing the first chapter about a depressed and scared guy who drinks too much. Then I got over myself and decided to just have fun with it and write a novel. The first thing that came into my mind was a fireside scene I had a dream about that involved dwarfs. I just took off from there.
Q: You decided not to do any research for this book; what was the reason for your decision?
A: I wrote the book in short bursts every morning right after waking up. Many of the chapters are based on dreams or whatever I happened to be thinking about at the time — eating, showering, going to the bathroom — these things are all featured prominently in the book because these are the things that go on early in the morning. It wasn’t so much a decision to not do any research as it was a decision to not slow down my writing to think about what I was doing. Once I had a few hundred pages written, I went back and spent several months editing it, rearranging it, and chopping out the lame parts. But, when I was editing, I liked how it was coming together and how you just didn’t know whether to believe the narrator or not. It added a level of depth to the book that I never intended, but that I’ll happily accept when it falls onto my lap.
Q: Your biography says you have been compared to Kurt Vonnegut and Charles Bukowski; who compared you to these authors and what was the basis of the comparison?
A: My sister’s husband’s mother was the first to make these comparisons. I thought it was cool that I could say that I’ve “been compared to” Vonnegut and Bukowski and that it doesn’t really mean anything positive or negative to have been “compared to” something, so I ran with it. I’ve certainly been influenced by both, and I think they are good points of reference for anyone who might be wondering if they’ll like my writing. But I would never go so far as to claim that I’m in the same universe as either. I haven’t been compared to John Steinbeck yet, but while I was writing this book, I was reading nothing else and I became pretty obsessed with his writing.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and does it help or hinder your creative efforts?
A: I make a living by teaching computer programming and writing computer books. Until 3 years ago, I ran a website development company. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked for myself (I haven’t had a boss) for the last 20 years, but it wasn’t until the last 3 years that I really figured out how to not be a jerk to myself all the time and to let myself have creative efforts that weren’t related to my money-making efforts. Writing computer books has taught me to be disciplined with my writing time and to stick with it and finish big projects. But, lately, I have to travel pretty often to teach and that throws me out of my writing routine. So, I’d have to say that my day job both enables my creative efforts and hinders them.
Q: How would you describe your creative process?
A: The only way I can get anything done is by making it into something that I do habitually and that I feel superstitious about not doing. Once I convince myself that if I don’t finish writing 3 page every morning someone I love will get sick, I’m unstoppable. It’s messed up, but that’s my process. If I’m writing, things come out and I enjoy the process. But, sticking to it and doing it every day takes extraordinary efforts.
Q: What is the best and worst advice any instructor has ever given you about writing?
A: Best advice: You can’t edit what doesn’t exist. This wasn’t actually an instructor, I think it’s from Stephan King’s book ‘On Writing’.
Worst advice: Wait until you’re older and you understand life better before you write a novel. I spent a lot of years waiting and I eventually figured out that I’d never know anything. I wish someone would have told me that would happen.
Q: What trends in literature annoy you?
A: I wouldn’t say that I’m annoyed by anything, but I generally don’t like magic or supernatural things or rare diseases or overly sappy stories. I’d like to see a trend towards people ignoring trends, but that’s probably not going to happen!
Q: What are some of the things you have done to promote yourself as a writer?
A: Lately, I’ve been reverse shoplifting. I bring my book into bookstores and put it on the shelf in the appropriate place. I don’t know how effective of a promotional technique this is, or what would happen if someone tried to buy it, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something to be seen by more people.
Q: In what ways is Los Angeles like a circus?
A: I haven’t spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, actually, so I can’t speak to it too much except to say that the old saying about the grass is always greener applies everywhere you go. Any sort of job or lifestyle — whether as a clown or an actor or an electrician — can get to be a routine that you need to run away from. Running away to the circus used to be the ultimate escape hatch dreamed of by kids growing up in small towns everywhere. Running away to California replaced the circus dream at some point. But, for people who grew up in the circus or in show business in L.A. — where do they go when they can’t stand their environment? Do they dream of having a quiet desk job or a stable family? This is the main idea that Ferment tries to explore. The book is also a lot of fun — like the circus should be, but probably really isn’t all the time.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.