May 15, 2017

Q & A with Josh Spilker, author and writer

Josh Spilker is a writer, author and content strategist. He's a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. He's the author of a few books and chapbooks and his latest is Taco Jehovah. He lives in Nashville, TN. Follow him on Twitter @joshspilker and Instagram @createmakewrite. And definitely swing by his Medium publications Vaguely Feel and Create Make Write for some motivation and creative advice.


GB: Josh, thank you for taking time for this. My first question is usually: Can you share a little bit about yourself? What's some background info worthy of noting for the readers? Any projects you'd like to self-plug?

JS: Yeah! Well, I'm married with two kids and I live in Nashville, TN. I went to college here, but then I left for a few years and came back. I've lived in the South my whole life, in five different states. Here comes the plug--My latest book is called Taco Jehovah and it's about a guy who believes God is telling him to open a taco truck.

GB: On top of being a diligent author, you're also a content strategist, a copywriter, and the editor of Create Make Write and Vaguely Feel? How did you get started writing and what influences brought you to the alt-lit scene?

JS: How did I start writing? Um... in 3rd grade, I wrote a story that involved a lot of vomit and it went over one page of notebook paper so I thought it was really long and amazing. The Internet brought me to "alt lit" which isn't a word anyone would want to use anymore--but through writers like Noah Cicero and Tao Lin. What I liked about it is that it was very modern, about what it was like to live in the 21st century, with modern technology and all of that. Despite the label and all the ancillary stuff surrounding the word "alt lit" I think the books/poetry that came out of that with Mira Gonzalez, Megan Boyle, Frank Hinton, Spencer Madsen, Steve Roggenbuck, Rachel Bell and more...those people came out with good stuff, and hopefully will continue to come out with good stuff. I really think it will be 'rediscovered' or whatever and will be appreciated more. Those people are still relatively young so I hope that 'scene experience' doesn't turn them off from writing and creating.

GB: Between all of that, where do you find the time to write? What methods do you use to carve out the time needed to create?

JS: I don't know. I really don't. I don't have a schedule. I write if we don't go out. For fiction or creative stuff, it's usually sometime between 9 pm and midnight, but not every night. I'll write blog posts during the day in between my real work. But still, that depends on what's going on. I've actually thought about calendaring in more time, not a set schedule per se, but blocking out regular time whenever time permits, just so I don't forget about it.

GB: What's it like being involved in content strategy and marketing? Do you find influence from it for your work?

JS: Yeah, I mean for artists, we have to realize that for some people, it's not about art, but about money. About ranking really high on certain keywords to sell you an e-course or whatever. It's really hard for novels to be SEO-friendly. So in some ways, it's resistant. I think it affects my writing, because it's stuff I read everyday and stuff I write everyday, so it definitely will. It will be affecting all of our writing. There's no alternative to it. Sometimes I get frustrated at myself, because as I found out with Taco Jehovah, I didn't follow all the "marketing plans" I had laid out for myself, because I got a new job and family. And I finally decided I had to get the work out. Which is somewhat selfish on my part, because then there's no real demand for it, but also freeing in another sense... because it lets me free up headspace for other stuff.

GB: What's the inspiration behind your latest book, Taco Jehovah? We all know how amazing tacos are. What kinds of conflict can we expect from opening a taco truck?

JS: Ha! Most of the conflicts are cultural, personal and spiritual. Cooper, the main character in the novel, kinda has a weird, direct personality, so he challenges a lot of the people in his life with his "calling" over a food truck. Some people have told me he sounds like he's on the autism spectrum, but that's not in the book.  He also goes on a spring break beach trip, gets in trouble and does a lot of cultural critiques. Oh yeah, there's a bunch of stuff about K-mart, empty malls, mini-golf... you know, the usual.

GB: What does "success" mean to you? What keeps you going?

JS: Good question! I think for now it would be a balance between fiction writing and whatever marketing work I would do. I would never want to just do one thing or another, like be a full-time novelist. I think you lose an edge that way and slip into some time of filter bubble. It's really important to know that books are a minor thing for most of the world and you should go into TV if you want your writing to mean "more." That said, you can write novels from anywhere and no one has to give you permission and there's still this faint, but quickly closing window of "breaking through." But I don't think I'll ever have "mass appeal," I'm too niche or whatever, so I'd like to max out that niche. And I'm not all the way there yet for sure.

GB: Who and what is on your MUST-READ list?

JS: Um, I mentioned Tao Lin, who I definitely enjoy but wouldn't recommend all of his books. Shoplifting from American Apparel is definitely my favorite and it's short. I also like Eat When You Feel Sad by Zachary German a lot and those two books have a big influence on Taco Jehovah. Um, otherwise, I read a lot of theology, and one of my favs is a book called "The Freedom of Simplicity" by Richard Foster. I like "The Throwback Special" by Chris Bachelder is one of my recent favs, along with "Supremacist" by David Shapiro and "The Folded Clock" by Heidi Julavits. I think Bud Smith mentioned in his interview The Cult of Loretta by Kevin Maloney, which was one of my favorite books in 2015. I mentioned Megany Boyle--please read her 'Selected Blog Posts...' and Ben Lerner's novels... and for stuff about the creative process, you have to pick up Lynda Barry.

GB: Your work in Create Make Write is very encouraging and definitely hits home for writers across all genres. How do you embrace this type of literary tool in your art? Can we expect this type of style in Taco Jehovah?

JS: No, Create Make Write is completely different than Taco Jehovah, which is probably to my detriment. I kinda built up an audience who is expecting one thing, like in Create Make Write and get something completely different with Taco Jehovah. But generally, Create Make Write is about writing and process. I think it's completely disingenuous for writers to only write about writing or themselves. You definitely have to stretch yourself and your writing. So... if I'm not creating something like Taco Jehovah, then I have no business writing about the creative process, in my opinion.

GB: What's next for Josh Spilker? Got any future projects we can look out for?

JS: Um, I'm probably going to release another (and shorter) novel later this fall with the designer who helped me with Taco Jehovah... but we'll see. Then, talking about Create Make Write, I may try and put some of those pieces together for a collection in 2018. Who knows?