20Q with Joshua Dysart
20 QUESTIONS with JOSHUA DYSART
Twenty things you (probably) didn’t know about Harbinger and Unknown Soldier writer, Joshua Dysart.
1. My first job was… washing cars for a car dealership. I was terrible at it. You’d think it’d be an easy gig but I was a punk kid and didn’t give two craps about it. Later I would go on to be a dish washer, a ditch digger, a water bottler, a day laborer, a server in several restaurants and finally, before becoming a writer, a used bookseller and buyer.
2. If I wasn’t a writer, I would likely be… a journalist is a type of writer so I guess that doesn’t count. So in a perfect world I’d be a documentary filmmaker. But in the real world, however, I’d probably still be a used bookseller.
3. I collect… I’m not much of a collector. But I do have books spilling out of my ass. They’re all over my house. Stacked on every flat surface. If I had the income and the space I’d probably collect audio equipment and bicycles too.
4. My favorite word is… CARBUNCLE! Or SOLIPSISTIC! Or UGLINESS!
5. I’m a big fan of… lots of things! But since he’s getting so bagged on these days let’s throw some love to Alan Moore. I do what I do because of WATCHMEN. Also, the novels of Michael Ondaatje, the poetry of Carole Satyamurti, the films of Tsai Ming-Liang and the music of Townes Van Zandt.
6. The single best piece of (writing related) advice I have ever gotten… was “Put your ass in the chair!”
Mark Waid has casually tossed advice my way on a few occasions. I don’t even know if he realizes I’m hanging on his every word when he speaks. Maybe he’s just filling dead air and trying to be polite. To me Mark is the perfect comic book writer. He’s consistently on his game, he adores the medium, he is uncompromising and ethical in his professional relationships (or so it seems to me) and he’s commercially viable without being “dumb”. Anyway, he once told me, “Just put your ass in the chair. Sit there and stare at a blank computer screen. Do that for four hours every day. You don’t have to write for those four hours, but you can’t do anything else.”
It works every time. Just put your ass in the chair. The rest will come.
7. I have always wanted to… ride my bicycle across a continent. Any continent will do. Except Antarctica.
8. The best thing I have ever read, (but did not write) is… wow. Uhm… there’s a lot of “best things”, but if I have to pick one it would probably be THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Every truth about human relationships is in that book.
9. People often tell me that I… write stuff that’s too dark and violent. It is the general opinion amongst my friends and family that I am a pretty happy, relaxed and even, occasionally, funny guy. They’re sometimes shocked when they read my work. The suggestion I most often receive is that I should write something fun and closer to my actual personality. The tricky part of that advice is that I thought I WAS writing fun stuff!
10. I really think that my best work (published or not) is… Unknown Soldier… followed closely by the BPRD stuff.
11. I find inspiration in… the real world. People and all the things they create, from institutions to philosophy to art. Nature. The idea that truth can only be found in contradiction. The fact that birth and growth come from violence and failure. The struggle between the necessity of the individual and the strength of the collective. The boundary between civilization and the wild. Spiritual rationalism (or rational spiritualism). Science.
12. The best thing about being a professional writer is… the hours. I wake-up whenever I want and set my own schedule.
13. I spend way too much time… on the computer.
14. The most interesting person in my cell phone is… right now it’s probably my friend Claire Boucher, the musician known as Grimes. She’s blowing up. It’s insane. I take pride in the fact that I’m the person who sat up late one night with her and got her to watch John Waters’ FEMALE TROUBLE for the first time.
15. It really bothers me when… car alarms go off. I fucking hate those things. Useless. It’s about the only thing I’m intolerant of. I want to take a baseball bat to a car whenever it pops off like that. What a screeching mess. As far as I’m concerned it should just be a wailing recorded voice saying, “my owner is a self-absorbed douche trapped in the culture of fear!” over and over again. Oh, and right wingers who complain about the left’s lack of family values when, in fact, the highest rate of divorce, teen-pregnancy and drug abuse comes from the most “red” states.
16. The worst thing about being a professional writer is… the hours. It’s your whole life. There’s no real “time off”. If you’re not writing, you’re not making money, not moving your career forward, not getting enough work out there. One has to be incredibly disciplined to carve out a regular weekend for themselves when they freelance for a living. I’ve never been able to do it.
17. One mistake that most aspiring writers make is… they don’t understand that writing is a subtractive process. And also that it’s a process of self-discovery. In other words, they walk around thinking they have to have a fully formed idea, or know what they’re going to write before they sit down and attack the keyboard. But that’s where “writer’s block” comes from. Instead of waiting for inspiration you just have the courage to vomit on the page. Pour everything out. Let the stream of consciousness flow. Writing should reveal the story, but most wait for the story to be revealed through some other means and then they sit down to write. To me that’s back asswards. Then, once you get what I call the “vomit pass” down, it’s time to start working like a sculptor. Cutting away the excess ideas and words until the one good “shape” that lies down in the dark depths of your vomit pass finally emerges, clean and smooth and brilliant. For every page I write, I probably throw five away.
18. If I knew the apocalypse were coming in 24 hours, I’d… grab the woman in my life and head for the mountains. I plan on surviving. If only to see what happens next! Once I figured out exactly what the situation was I’d probably start making my way back to Texas to find my mom and my daughter.
19. The three websites I visit most often are… Mubi.com (the Criterion Collection’s social network). You can see my mercifully short movie reviews here… http://mubi.com/users/90182/filmography and follow on to my profile to connect with me and rap about global cinema! The Beat, http://www.comicsbeat.com/ Heidi MacDonald’s extremely comprehensive comics blog. & Digital DJ Tips http://www.digitaldjtips.com/ Because I like to play around with my music collection. I love old school DJing, but it’s just a hobby and I can’t afford two Techniques or two Pioneer CDJ’s. Maybe someday.
20. You’d be surprised to know that I… refuse to own a car in Los Angeles. It’s all about supporting bicycle culture and public transportation in the city that needs a transportation paradigm shift more than any other in the world!