Monday, November 23, 2009

Guest Blogger: R.A. Riekki

R.A. Riekki is author of the novels U.P. and the forthcoming Portrait of the Artist as a Bogey Man. He held a gun to my head and threatened to pierce both my ears if I didn't publish the following interview. [Rolling Stone? Cool! Um . . .]


Rolling Stone: How is the Twilight fandom different from the Harry Potter movies? I think you've mentioned that the sound of the screams is even different.

R.A. Riekki: People scream during Harry Potter? Really? If you're screaming during Harry Potter, I think it's really important that you never watch any of the Evil Dead films or you might commit suicide from fear. Screaming at Harry Potter would be sort of like laughing hysterically at a book of limericks. You're entertainment deprived or something. But I should add that I never said anything about those movies or books though, because I've never read them and I've only seen one Harry Potter movie and it was just OK. It was like a C if I had to grade it. I'm kind of off-guard because, you know, this is Rolling Stone so I figured you'd have fact-checkers and stuff. Where does it say I said that?

Rolling Stone: Is it weird to have girls that are so young have this incredibly sexualized thing around you?

R.A. Riekki: Whoa. Really? Like who? I've never heard that before. This actress Patricia Grant in L.A. recently said that I should do modeling and I was like, "You think?" Because I've never seen myself as that hot, but who are these young girls that you're talking about. I mean, sounds like an episode of MSNBC's To Catch a Predator or something. I like women my age. But did they see the author photo on the back of U.P. or something, because I kind of look goofy in it, I thought. Must be those same girls that are screaming during Harry Potter.

Rolling Stone: Do you think that's part of it, though? One of the things that seems to make Edward so attractive to younger girls is that you can have it both ways. He's the ultimate bad boy, and someone that you shouldn't want, who would never harm you.

R.A. Riekki: Do you mean Craig? My character Craig in U.P.? Because there was this heavy metal DJ in I think Georgia that thought he was hot. You know. And in the book he is definitely a bad boy and gets all the girls. But they're not exactly the type of girls I would want to get, if you know what I mean. He tends to have abused females fall for him, like Bobbie in the novel. You know, the abusive relationship. That's been an extension of the relationship they witnessed their parents having. But yeah, Craig's definitely a bad boy. Maybe an evil boy. But he probably wouldn't harm any females. Males, yes, absolutely. And females, emotionally, but not physically. Unless he was really mad. I sure the heck wouldn't want to date him. That'd be a nightmare. I'm actually glad I'm a male. Dating males would suck. We smell, tend not to communicate well, and I think look kind of gross. Where women are just beautiful. OK, I'm on a tangent for a Rolling Stone interview.

Rolling Stone: And why did you want to push it in that direction?

R.A. Riekki: Which direction? The bad boy direction? For Craig or for me or I'm assuming you mean Craig. I wanted Craig to be a bad boy because that was his character. That's who he is. He's a seducer. He seduces Antony into violence at the end. And worse. That's a large part of who he is.

Rolling Stone: Were there any risks that you wanted to take that you ended up just not being able to do?

R.A. Riekki: Oh my God, good question. And hard to answer. I mean, as far as the novel as a whole, the first draft was insane. I had different fonts and visually it was accompanied with this collage artwork that an artist at the University of Virginia did to go along with it. It was this art piece of a book, but not something I could ever get published. So I pulled back and made it more of a standard novel visually. But on the page, I was brutal and avant-garde and tried to be very, very original. Which is one of the compliments about the book. I wanted to write a book I'd never read before. Because so many novels are derivative, a bit carbon copy, cookie-cutter. So, if you read it, you'll see the neologisms and hip-hop linguistics and abandonment of punctuation for antony's chapters, you know. And with Craig, he's a racist misogynist homophobe and I felt uncomfortable writing some of the things he says, a bit like reading Irvine Welsh's Filth, but I did pull back on his anti-Semitism. I was reading Holocaust literature at the time and it affected me, but what really made me pull out some of those lines he said were that I didn't feel it deepened the character, that it was not necessary to who he was, whereas, Craig's racism is central to the novel's plot, physically central as well, it seems it emerges at the halfway point in the novel.

Rolling Stone: Right.

R.A. Riekki: You've read it? That's great. Now I can say I've been read by Rolling Stone. What did you think?

Rolling Stone: Stephenie Meyer talked about the influence of a lot of Victorian literature, which definitely seems obvious in Twilight, even the fact that his name is Edward. Do you see that there's a Victorian quality to Edward?

R.A. Riekki: I've never read Twilight.

Rolling Stone: What's attractive about that kind of character that made him popular then and still popular now?

R.A. Riekki: I . . . I just said, you know, I've never read it. Why, are you a huge fan or something?

Rolling Stone: You're in this position where you're playing this character who's attractive because of that mystique and then don't have that luxury.

R.A. Riekki: Uhhhh, you're losing me here. I really don't know what you're talking about.

Rolling Stone: Why do you think he's attracted to Bella?

R.A. Riekki: Who? . . . are you talking about Twilight, because I've never read it! I started to read some of the screenplay, but I thought it was horribly written. I got about ten pages in, maybe nine, and couldn't stomach it anymore. It was just too . . . simple. It didn't pull me in. I had read the screenplay to Milk right before that and that was one of the best scripts I'd ever read, so when I started Twilight, it was like going from Dostoevsky to Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss is great, but it was a bit like whiplash for me. I'm not a big vampire fan though, although I do like Poppy Z Brite and some Anne Rice. I'm not aversive to horror. My next novel that Ghost Road Press is publishing is a horror novel entitled A Portrait of the Artist as a Bogey Man, so I like the genre, but it's key that that novel is really an attempt to run as much against the grain of mainstream contemporary horror as possible. And Stephenie Meyer is so parallel to the grain that we're almost antithetical in the way we approach writing. She's the Mitt Romney of horror fiction and I'm the Dennis Kucinich of horror. Or the Malcolm X of horror.

Rolling Stone: Do you think that's why it seems to have a stronger following because she's not fixed at the end, and people can identify with that?

R.A. Riekki: I have not read Twilight, so for my first big break to get interviewed by Rolling Stone and then talk almost the whole time about a book I've never read is really hard. I haven't read it. I don't want to read it. I'm not interested in it. It seems very, I dunno, very cotton candy and I don't like cotton candy. I get headaches from too much sweets. I wish I didn't, but I do. I really don't have anything insightful to say about Twilight. And in fact, I don't hate it. I'm more apathetic to it. I'm just not interested.

Rolling Stone: Have you ever had a situation where fans sent you something kind of crazy or very extreme?

R.A. Riekki: Only once. I had one, well, very weird person do something along those lines, but I don't want to encourage that person, so maybe it's best if I'm just vague and not talk about it. But thank you for moving on from that last topic.

Rolling Stone: What did they say?

R.A. Riekki: Well, no, I'd rather not talk about it. It was a very, very weird fan. I wouldn't even say fan, just an odd person. That's one of the reasons I like to use R.A. Riekki rather than use my actual first name. I like pseudonyms. But the publisher screwed up and put my first name on the cover anyway, so I guess the initials are kind of pointless, except I like the whole J.D. Salinger, S.E. Hinton vibe to initials. Seems cool. e.e. cummings.

Rolling Stone: Did you read the whole thing?

R.A. Riekki: Of? e.e. cummings? Or you talking about what the crazy fan person sent, because let's move on from that. I'd rather go back to Twilight than talk about that.

Rolling Stone: Do you think people have trouble distinguishing you from your character?
R.A. Riekki: I'm not a character in U.P. Are you talking about A Portrait of the Artist as a Bogey Man, because if so how did you get a copy or even hear about that? It doesn't come out 'til 2010.

Rolling Stone: You said that when you read the fan sites that they're all kind of similar voice.

R.A. Riekki: I don't really have any fan sites. I mean, I've gotten great reviews and got to do a ton of interviews, over a hundred, but I haven't seen a fan site yet about me. I wish.

Rolling Stone: Do you have any gay teenagers contacting you?

R.A. Riekki: Now why would you ask me that? Seriously, why would you ask that? . . . This is easily the weirdest interview I've ever had.

Rolling Stone: Tell me about an experience you had where you just found someone hiding and watching when you were on set.

R.A. Riekki: What set? Are you talking about Pushing Daisies on ABC? You do your research. I was a juggler on the "Circus, Circus" episode, but there wasn't any stalker there or anything. It was a closed set. You know, security would have grabbed 'em. That's another weird question to ask.

Rolling Stone: But there's something to be said by it being different group than the people who scream at Jonas Brothers shows.

R.A. Riekki: People who stalk me during extra shoots for ABC TV shows are different than screaming Jonas Brother fans. I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. I need a physicist to explain that sentence to me.

Rolling Stone: Who do you think is more intense, the Twilight moms or the younger girls?

R.A. Riekki: Remind me to never do another Rolling Stone interview. Who is more intense, a Twilight mom or a Twilight girl? That's really a question you're going to ask me? You know, I have producers in L.A. who are interested in turning my novel into a movie. We could talk about that. We could talk about moms and girls and their responses to my novel. Could you please ask me anything, anything that does not have to do with vampires? We can even go back to your fascination with people stalking me. OK. But if you really want to impress me, ask me a question that has nothing to do with Twilight or about people stalking me. You're Rolling Stone! I figured you'd be one of the best interviews I've ever had in my life!

Rolling Stone: But then outsiders who also aren't really outsiders.

R.A. Riekki: A non sequitir. A nonsense sentence. A non-sentence. That's your last question? A statement that makes no sense . . . OK, then I'll do it too: Penguins like to go shopping in restaurants. How's that? Let me ask Rolling Stone some questions now. Now it's my turn. Your first question: The television has a black shoe on its clock. Your reponse. Question two: Backgammon grows in X-ray machines. Oh, and here's a good question: Have you ever been stalked by a character in the novel Twilight and if so which character was it? Riveting! Riveting questions for you. That's it, I'm out of here. Apparently I have to go read freakin' Twilight. It's Moby Dick but with vampires. It's the fifth Gospel. It's such an important book!!
[Riekki overturns table, leaves. Rolling Stone interviewer takes out a brand new copy of Twilight, takes out bookmark on page 8 and starts reading]

The management of Perpetual Folly is not responsible for any damage caused by overturned tables or any other aspects of this interview.

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