Finally updated The Alligators of Abraham page with a number of reviews and so forth. I also added my story, The Greater Darkness (published in December at Untoward Magazine), to the short fiction section. I’m proud of the story and, if you’ve found yourself here looking for something and have not yet checked it out, I’d love if you’d take the time.
So, Amber Sparks (author of the marvelous MAY WE SHED THESE HUMAN BODIES) asked me to do this thing that people are doing, this self-interview thing. For some reason it is called The Next Big Thing. It’s like a chain letter, in a way. When I was a boy I did a chain letter. Someone slipped the letter under our door. I believed in the mystical properties of things, in those days. I was transfixed before this letter, with the crucifix drawn on the envelope. So, the letter itself was fever-driven, as these letters are. You had to copy out 10 copies of this two-sided letter about the powers and the glories of Christ and then pass the copies along. I believe it had something to do with not going to hell. So, of course, I copied them out, in a state of high anxiety the entire while. And then I secretly slipped copies to my friends at Sunday school. I remember blushing while they tore open the envelopes, while they furrowed their brows, failing to read my smeared pencil penmanship. They all threw out the letter. And so we are all doomed. What follows is like that, but probably more annoying.
What is your working title of your book? LET THE DEAD BURY THEIR DEAD
Where did the idea come from for the book? Books follow naturally from the failure of previous books, I think. Or the perceived failure. So the book I had written prior to LET THE DEAD, was something called THE ALLIGATORS OF ABRAHAM. And that book is a very dense, violent, nightmarish historical-satire. Or that’s what I wanted it to be. So with this book I wanted to write more about people, their fears and pain and sorrows, rather than manipulate the historical canvas. I ended up doing a little of both. It’s still a manipulation of history and biography, and it’s still satiric, but that’s where I started.
What genre does your book fall under? Literature.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? This would be one of those movies with English actors you kind of recognize from what some call “quality television programing,” but you can’t remember which show exactly, and you certainly don’t remember their actual names. “Was he on The Wire?” I’d want this because they are all trained in Shakespeare and can actually act. When you see them in this movie you assume they are all American born, but when you later see them in interviews you are stunned to learn they actually originated from the English countryside. Perhaps they are interviewed with their sheep. Perhaps they are shearing the sheep.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? It is about the fevered rise of a religious movement and its fall into corruption and madness and ruin.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Possibly neither. I mean, I won’t self publish. There are days I think, “I should just self publish this.” But there would be no joy, no purpose. I’d feel only regret. So, the short answer is, I have no idea. Would an agency represent this book? I suppose more shocking things happen in life, but I doubt it. I really do. So I suppose the actual answer is, NO.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I have no idea. I know it was something like eight months before I showed the manuscript to anyone. It was a longer process than my earlier books.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? All of them, none. I didn’t have anything in mind. Macbeth maybe. Absalom, Absalom. The Old Testament. I mean, it’s nothing like those books, and obviously those are some of the greatest achievements of human civilization and my book is evidently being considered for self-publication, but there’s little bits from each that maybe lend themselves to a comparison. Don’t go around saying I said my book was as good as Macbeth, please.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? Did you run out of questions? I already answered this. I suppose I can answer in a different way. Most books promise to be about one thing and then you read them and they are about people talking to each other. I wanted to write a book that focuses on the thing itself. I’m always inspired a little by my hatred for most books and my love for certain others. So there’s that.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? All I know is what interests me. I didn’t write it for readers. If the books people tend to buy and love are any indication of what will interest “readers” then this book is probably not what they will like. I would shy away from this book. There’s my sales pitch.
But, okay, you asked about the book: It is dense and slow moving at times. It is very brisk at others. It is filled with cinder and blood and anguish. There is a black winged creature that smells of sulfur. There are scenes of intense fucking. There is a black mountain and a forest at the base of this mountain populated with the bloated bodies of suicides. Churches are constructed. Children die alone in the forest. God gnashes. Men and women are slaughtered.
There are pockets of beauty and love but these moments are only there to give the obliteration meaning. To make the reader feel sorrow. I want a book to be a tidal wave of words and images and pain and beauty. The book, then, like all books, is a failure. You would maybe read it and think, “This isn’t the thing itself. This is words and people talking to each other.” But I like it.
Amber Lee was nice enough to chat with me at Necessary Fiction about books and writing. Thanks!
Many thanks to Lori Hettler for posting my reading of a section of The Alligators of Abraham at TNBBC’s Audio Series. Now you can hear my mid-western accent!
There are more Texts Inspired By … up at Sundog Lit with pieces by Matthew Salesses and Mike Young. So humbled and gratified to see works by these two greats that are inspired by something I wrote. Do yourself the favor and check them out!
Plus, I have a playlist of music to listen to while reading The Alligators of Abraham up at Used Furniture Review. Most of the music is linked, so you can check out the music and get a sense of what I was going for with the book. And, of course, you get to listen to some great music. And, of course, I recommend checking out the music that isn’t linked, too.
Flavorwire recently named The Alligators of Abraham as one of their 10 November must reads. Writing of the novel:
This book, which Amber Sparks described as “a nightmare about the Civil War” is about madness, Lincoln, sacrifice, a plague of alligators, and yes, war, all told in luscious, feverish, brutal prose. After all that, Matt Kish’s disturbingly beautiful illustrations are just a welcome bonus.
If you needed anymore prompting to pre-order, now you have it!
Sundog Lit is featuring texts inspired by The Alligators of Abraham throughout this month. So far they have posted works by Steve Himmer, Kate Racculia, Mel Bosworth, Zack Wentz, Amber Sparks, Ted Mathys, and Sean Kilpatrick. It is very humbling and awesome to have so many talented writers and artists reshaping a novel that I wrote and I couldn’t be more pleased and proud of the results. More to come, all month long!