Q: As soon as I opened Sam I knew it wasn’t going to be a normal reading experience. Why did you decide to format your story in an unconventional way?
A: I wrote a book I wanted to exist in the world. Believe it or not, I've struggled with reading my entire life, and I wrote a book that almost imposes this struggle on the reader. I've found that I create connections with books because I have to be intentional, present, and aware with every word or I lose it all. I wanted to pass this gift on, if only in one book. I hope that anyone who reads this appreciates the level of intention and awareness I ask of them and moves through the story like a walk through the park on a Sunday, not like being on autopilot on the autobahn.
Q: Tell me more about the interplay between the absurd formatting and the unusual narrative. How does one support the other?
A: I love that you used the word "absurd" here - I would like to think of Eugène Ionesco or Albert Camus when you use this word, but I am not sure everyone will be on board that ship. Both the formatting and the narrative are intended to create an interplay between the reader and the characters. They are both, like you would state [11:11 Press Mission], "invisible hands" that attempt to move the reader into uncomfortable spaces and moments they often ignore. I feel that I've put a line on the floor of a maze for the reader and even though the line gets a bit squiggly at times, I know I've guided them to the right destination. Well, to a destination.
Q: When reading Sam, the spacing made me physically move. It makes the reading experience more interactive. Do you feel like you are making a deeper connection with your reader by making them move with your spacing?
A: That was the exact intent. I intend for the reader to move with, feel, and believe that they are in the minds of the characters. I aimed to write a book that imposed intentionality on the reader. The reader has to pay attention. And because of this attention, I feel that a connection is built. You care more because you have to put effort into understanding the story.
Q: You touch on some heavy topics like mental illness and queer relationships. Why did you choose these topics?
A: Hah, well it shouldn't be a surprise to find out that I am a gay man. So a queer relationship really was my only option if I was to remain consistent with my values and true to myself. And mental illness is a topic that I am sure the vast majority of individuals have an opinion on, or know quite a bit about - either personally or vicariously. Let's face the facts here, there is stigma about being gay in the world. Still. And being mentally ill is "unacceptable" to most anyone. Some will say that it is "okay" to be gay. They will also say that it is "okay" to be mentally ill. (So long as you keep your weirdness on the inside and never talk about it.) But the intersectionality of queerness (or, gayness in this case) and mental illness is a death sentence for many relationships. I can't count how many times I've seen "no crazies" (also coupled with "no fats & no fems") on gay dating sites. (And don't you straight people think that you are any different.) This story had to be told. I had no option once it wormed its way into my mind.
Q: As the subtitle suggests, this is about a romantic affair between two men. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I will say that it’s non-traditional. Is your non-traditional ending in theme with the non-traditional narrative and formatting?
A: I have to disagree with your assessment of the ending. I believe that the ending is in many ways very traditional. Relationships are stories we tell ourselves, some have endings and others are works in progress. As far as whether or not it is in theme with my style of writing, I intend with the coupling of my story arch and stylistic decisions for the reader to be able to fully be taken into the book and emote with the characters. I know that individuals will relate, love is a common theme in the world which very seldom, if ever, has finality. We are all common in our fight for love and against death.
Q: What is your favorite poem in the book?
A: I would have to say that my favorite poem is 008. This one was actually the first poem I wrote in the book. It was the inspiration for the creation of Sam. I fell in love with an individual in 2011 and wrote this poem for that individual. After a few uninspiring moments I found that it was hardly worth the effort to continue the relationship in reality. Though the individual in question did not continue to be part of my life, the poem did. So, I created a world that it deserved, and a person who was well worth the challenges associated with human affairs. That being said, there's a number of stories that go along with each poem, but these are all private and won't really be told to anyone but my closest friends.
Q: Has writing about relationships changed how you navigate your own romantic relationship?
A: I am sure that it has, I can't imagine a world where writing a book about something didn't change the way you view that something. I would have to say that I am more comfortable with the mundane aspects of the everyday now. I can always narrate my life however I please. And being the narrator is incredibly empowering.
Q: That's a real positive: "Being the narrator is incredibly empowering." Did you encounter any difficulties in the writing process?
A: I most certainly did encounter difficulties. I fell in love with Sam a number of times while writing this book. I had to create a division between what was "realistic" to expect from a partner and what I idealized. It's really an odd thing falling in love with a fictional character, but it's really easy when that character is intentionally the best parts of everyone you either dated or were in a relationship with over a seven year period. Sam is, in essence, my perfect partner. Or how I imagined my "perfect" partner at one time. This being the case, I had to learn how to navigate relationships with both the person I was dating and Sam throughout the entire writing process. That wasn't exactly the easiest when Sam always knew the right thing to say and do. Also, editing. I have to say that editing the book seemed to take nearly as long as writing it. I think I've rewritten it three times and have most of it memorized by now.
Q: Do you have any relationship advice for us?
A: In fact, I do! Take the time to put life into the most mundane experience. Life is incredibly boring at times, but never allow this to be the defining feature. We are reality creating machines and any meaning that exists in the world is put their by us. If you are sitting across the table from your partner eating toast, there's an epic between you two. You just have to be aware of it.
Q: I hear you have other project. Would you like to mention them today?
A: I'd love to! Thank you.
I'm a designer and drafter by trade. Publishing Sam has been an incredibly happy surprise in my life. It's absolutely amazing the events that occur when you're not expecting anything at all. I feel very fortunate to be having this experience.