THE REVIEW: “This project is both exceedingly good and dreadfully alarming as I would expect with any work that would dare to remind me of the magnum opus (1984) that literally killed George Orwell.” —A.K. Kuykendall
AUTHOR BIO – TREVOR D. RICHARDSON
Trevor D. Richardson is the founder of The Subtopian, a regular writer and editor for the magazine, and the author of American Bastards from Subtopian Press. A west coast man by birth, Trevor was brought up in Texas and has since ventured back west and put down roots in Portland, Oregon. He has devoted his writing career to helping others find success by forming friendships and working relationships with other writers and artists. Trevor looks for ways to reach across media to other types of creative people to find that place where music, visual art, and literature intersect and is dedicated to creating a new market where new voices can thrive without sacrificing quality or principles.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a recovering literary snob who sublimated his urges with geek culture. Let that sink in and you’ll probably realize it’s not that rare. In my early twenties, I wanted to be the next Bukowski or Burroughs, I drank wine and smoked American Spirits and stayed up late talking about “ideas” while floating aimlessly from one place to the next, living in my car, and just generally chafed against modern day reality. I’m thirty now and realized the happiest I ever was in my whole life was when the Batman and X-Men animated series were on Saturday mornings. I got back in touch with that kid and started to just write stuff I thought was cool. Now I work behind the scenes in the comics industry and things are a lot better for me.
2. At what point in your life, did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
I wrote my first story when I was six, maybe seven. My dad was a custodian at one of the local middle schools and he brought home this old Macintosh II that was going to get scrapped. Dad brought it home and hooked it up so the kids could play with it, he didn’t have much interest in it personally. It didn’t do much, but it had some of those old text-based adventure games like Colossal Cave Adventure and I used to play those like mad. When I discovered the word processor I started writing without much thought, but I was ambitious. The first words I ever typed in this world were “Chapter One.” I started with a novel. Anyway, it was a medieval story about a prince hunting a werewolf that killed his princess and he was going to find out that he was the werewolf and didn’t know it. Heady stuff for a six or seven year old, but my favorite part about that memory is after about 3,000 words I told myself, “This is just bad writing.” I deleted it, but the writing gods had their hooks in me from then on.
3. What are your most memorable or proudest moments in your writing career?
I still feel like I’m not “there yet.” I think my best book is still inside me somewhere. But I did have this moment in Portland, Oregon, where a buddy of mine was sitting in a coffee shop and overheard this kid telling his mom how much this book he was reading meant to him. Turns out it was my first novel, American Bastards. A book I’m thoroughly convinced five people bought, one of which was this kid, the other four were probably my mom.
4. Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
In five years, I have published the book that let me quit my day job. I’m not making Stephen King money, but I’m living comfortable enough to focus on writing more stuff, and faster, and probably have set my eyes on television.
5. What advice do you wish you’d been given before starting your career in writing?
Don’t try to be a novelist first. Try to get into an adjacent field like television or get work as an editor or journalist. You can be the best writer in the world but it really does matter who you know, and conventions only get you so far. I’ve made my best connections just this past year working in comics and meeting people as colleagues. One thing can always lead to another and that’s when you get work as a writer.
6. Tell us about the books you’ve written so far, and your plans for any future books?
My first book, American Bastards, was based on a series of dreams I was having after I stopped believing in religion. For seven months, as I went to sleep, I woke up as this other guy in a place where everything from our culture like songs and movies were personified as people. I began writing it all down for the first hour of my day, each day, until the book was through. Incidentally, I think it’s thoroughly weird. But maturity issues aside, the journey of a kid trying to get back in touch with his own inner-child by looking for answers in Americana and wrestling with a feeling of being abandoned by the so-called American Dream, that’s still pretty kick ass.
I have a little book called Honeysuckle & Irony that’s about what happens in America when we find out mythical creatures like Bigfoot and unicorns are not only real, but sentient. No spoilers, but we basically put them to work and the whole thing becomes an allegory for civil rights, labor issues, and gay equality.
Then there’s Dystopia Boy, which you know all about, but I have taken to describing as the story of a folk-punk band road tripping through America in the last days of its democracy.
I just finished a book I’ve tentatively titled “Darwin Junction,” which is the story of the item shop girl from RPG video games and her life working a road side tourist trap where she stocks up adventurers on their way to their various quests. There’s more to it than that, of course, but imagine if Indiana Jones’ Marion Ravenwood were running a general store in Mad Max’s desert. That’s under review in a few places, but no bites yet.
7. Is there any part of your career, you find particularly challenging?
I have two big challenges, but both are personal and have little to do with writing. I am often almost crippled with anxiety and the whole schmoozing or networking for my career thing is really, really difficult. That’s why most of my connections come from work rather than socializing and it’s also why I try to keep a job in some kind of creative industry. The second challenge is I dropped out of college for similar anxiety related reasons (see the aforementioned living in my car driving around years) and I continually hit road blocks when I find jobs I’d rock at but I don’t have that qualifying piece of paper. When it comes to the actual writing though, I guess it’s simplest to say I’ve always been better at living in the worlds I make up then the one I’m trying to earn a wage in.
8. Who do you feel, has supported you most, in your writing?
That’s easy. My mom. She’s a voracious reader and she reads everything I write when I’m done with it. I trust her to give me honest feedback and not just stick it on the proverbial refrigerator.
9. Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?
I’ll see all nine of you at the bar. Kidding. I’d have to just say thanks for reading my stuff. The reading class is rapidly diminishing in an age of high-speed multi-taskers. When you read my books you aren’t just giving me your money, you’re giving me your undivided attention and hours of your life. It means a lot.
10. Where can we find out more about you and your books?
I also have a pet project, The Subtopian (subtopian.com) where I’ve helped publish a few books and am about to start posting audiobook samples, as well as some other alt media like podcasts and webcomics. It’s still in development, but check back from time to time.
11. Tell us a little about your book.
Dystopia Boy is about the growing surveillance state in America and one of the biggest potential disasters looming over us (other than climate change) — total economic collapse. In the near future, the wage gap has increased, people are learning to fend for themselves without the use of cash, and one kid who discovers that we are all being watched and controlled by the elite starts a revolution. It’s a modern day Robin Hood story, but the merry men are musicians and they’re using technology to fight the system instead of swords and arrows.
12. What were you attempting to convey in the artistry of your book cover?
I designed the cover of Dystopia Boy as a deliberate throwback to eighties sci-fi, particularly the cyberpunk movement. The wall of monitors and rolling computer code is familiar iconography, but the central figure on the cover is the narrator, Anders, not Joe, and he is being absorbed by the imagery in a way that is very relevant to the events of the story.
13. What inspired you to write your book?
When the last generation of video consoles were announced, last being PS3 and X-Box 360, there was a lot of talk about the games monitoring movement, recognizing their user, and in the case of X-Box, having a camera that was always turned on. The idea of building a spy network into our home entertainment fascinated me, and still does, because it would mean we are spending our own money to fund our own surveillance by the state. The other elements of an increasingly theocratic government using religion to subjugate the poor just fit nicely together in my mind, and will solidify in a followup novel to this story, where the surveillance network is used to monitor the morality of the populace.
14. Are the character profiles based on people you know or are they completely drawn from your imagination?
Lee and Beardo were largely inspired by friends of mine from Texas. Audrey is a conglomeration of movie characters, friends, and my wife. Joe is mostly me, but he is both better and worse than I am in a lot of ways because he is so extreme. I think the only character dredged up out of nowhere is Anders, and for some reason he always looked and sounded like John Schneider, the actor who played Clark Kent’s dad on Smallville. Or for the less geeky, he was Beau Duke on the Dukes of Hazzard.
15. Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Every writer pulls from stories they’ve heard or things that have happened to them, but I think most disguise it in plot and characterization. If I were to say, at bottom, Dystopia Boy is about my own dislike for some elements of living in 21st Century America, particularly the way the religious right makes moral issues out of lifestyle choices and overlooks the moral implications of actually caring for people, or the way I don’t actually feel as free as the propaganda says I am, you would probably nod your head and say, “Oh, yes, I see that.” But if I were to say I actually know a guy who grew up on a Blackfoot Reservation who ran away from home to be a drummer for a protest band, you’d probably cry B.S. And you’d be right to. I just imagined what my friends would do if they were in the situation I made up.
16. Which part of the book, in your opinion, was the most difficult to write?
For me, one of the best things about this book is the way it plays with levels of consciousness and identity. There are a number of scenes I hesitate to call “dream sequences” because they are technological in nature, but we can call them that for the sake of argument. Any time when Joe and Anders share a dream sequence, particularly where there is a present tense Joe and a past tense Joe, those were the most challenging to write. It’s my job to not only keep everything clear and concise to the reader, but also to keep it from sounding clunky or awkward, while maintaining the entertainment value and momentum. So, yeah, no pressure or anything.
17. What parts of the book do you love, in particular?
I love writing about drunks and stoners, not because I find them gritty or anything, it’s quite the opposite. The most communal and warm experiences of my life have involved passing something between friends. So I respond most to the moments where Joe is on drugs, communing with the crossed wires in his head while he tries to hold up a simultaneous conversation with his buddies. For example, “Joe, how much drugs are you on right now?” Answer: “Scale of 1 to 10? Some.”
18. Tell us about the cover design of your book.
The cover depicts a Watcher, a covert government surveillance agent, at his terminal. Behind him are dozens of monitors showing various images that loosely portrays the All-seeing eye and pyramid known from the American dollar bill. The Watcher, Anders, has glowing lime green eyes as he is being absorbed by lines of computer code.
19. Which ways have you chosen to market your book?
I sought reviews, sent out ARCs, set up contests, and gave readings. I pursued a few different avenues to try to get the songs of the book written and recorded, but to no avail. If any fans out in the world read this and think they want to take a whack at it though, find me on Facebook. I’m about to start releasing serialized audiobook chapters of this thing as I get ready to publish book 2.
20. If you had to do it all over again, is there anything you’d change?
Very little about the story itself. I think the printed book could use some tweaks. I think the actual book could use some tweaks with the page layouts to get the overall page count down and drive the price down some. I also wish there had been more advanced marketing prior to release, but those are all mistakes I will learn from for the sequel.
21. Where can we find out more or buy the book?
I have given a lot of interviews — Dave Abrams’ awesome blog, The Quivering Pen has a segment called “My First Time,” that I wrote a piece for. I also have an article I wrote for a blog called Underground Soundtrack about how music influenced the writing of this book. There are tons more. Also, good old Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.
22. Who are you?
Author of three books, freelance editor and writer, living in Baltimore, Maryland, and working behind the scenes in comics marketing and distribution.
23. What are the titles of your books?
Dystopia Boy: The Unauthorized Files
Honeysuckle & Irony
Darwin Junction: or The Item Shop That Saved the World
Corporate Hun (Dystopia Boy sequel)
24. Who is your favourite author?
If I had to choose only one, it would have to be Hunter S. Thompson, but I’m also hugely influenced by Chuck Palahniuk, Tom Robbins, J.D. Salinger, William S. Burroughs, and have learned to really love the writings of Stephen King, though that may sound cliche. I also am a very vocal advocate for Ernest Cline, ask my friends, and just discovered John Scalzi.
25. Worst book you have ever read?
A lot of my “worst books” don’t qualify because I didn’t finish reading them. I think the worst book I read from start to finish was actually a winner of the Oregon Book Award, called Only Milo, which further solidifies my mistrust of systems, panels, and committees. It was the story of a ghostwriter killing his way to financial success and not only was the prose lazy, the plot was absurd, and the protagonist’s crimes were poorly planned, poorly executed, and too easily successful.
26. What book are you reading now?
Re-reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and finishing Charles Yu’s How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
27. Your favourite quote about writing/authors:
I have two in equal measure, both from Ray Bradbury:
“You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture, just get people to stop reading them.”
28. Your biggest inspiration:
Teddy Roosevelt. No, Rocky Balboa. No, Teddy and Rocky boxing.
29. Something you can’t live without:
Positivity. I’m a naturally pessimistic person but I don’t like to give in to that nature. I want to be happy and optimistic and I try to keep positive people around me because they don’t let me fall into my usual bad habits. Which is a nicer way of saying they don’t take any of my crap and I appreciate it.
30. Your pet-hate:
I call this either the Ellipsis Question or the Half-Ass Multiple Choice. Whatever you call it, I hate it. It’s that thing where someone like your girlfriend or your boss will say, “So…were you going to do that thing or…” They never say what comes after the or. They imply the “or” rather than just come right out and say “please do that thing.” It’s so passive aggressive and it drives me batty.
31. Your favourite place to be:
With friends who don’t need to be doing anything other than sit and enjoy each other’s company, usually over drinks. The best nights of my life usually happened over booze, a crummy coffee table, and a lack of financial options to do anything other than sit there and make each other laugh. Our drive to always be doing something, “what do you want to do?” “where do you want to go?” “what now?” has ruined honest gatherings of friends.
32. Something you like/love about yourself?
I think fast, type fast, write fast, and have a bottomless imagination. I like that I have a sense of work ethic about my art and am not hindered by waiting for “my muse” to show up. I’ve lashed my muse to my chariot and we go where I say. I like that.
33. Something you’d change about yourself?
I’m really abusive toward muses. It’s a problem.
Also, there is a tendency toward anti-social and pessimistic tendencies that I don’t like, but I don’t appear to be outgrowing. These things make me a good writer, but I think they also make me kind of a bummer. I’d like to be more in the moment and less in my head sometimes.
34. Your ideal life would be:
I make enough money from writing that I can travel without begging for leave from a boss. I get to see my family more and enjoy time with my wife. I have a house on a beach somewhere and swim and surf in the afternoons when it’s hottest and write in the mornings and evenings when it’s cool. I drink coffee when I write and whiskey with my friends and when I’m old I have stories that people actually want to hear. I’m neither super rich nor super famous, but I’m well off and content.
Pragmatic author A.K. Kuykendall has a passion for writing conspiracy, espionage, horror, and suspense literature that blend the concepts of fact and fiction. For more information on his projects, visit http://www.thewriterofbooks.com/list-of-works/ or, to email the author directly for Q&A on this post, write to email@example.com.