Behind the Words: Brian Alan Ellis

Posted by on May 2, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Brian EllisBrian Alan Ellis is the author of The Mustache He’s Always Wanted but Could Never Grow and 33 Fragments of Sick-Sad Living. His writing has appeared in such publications as Skive, The Single Hound, Zygote in My Coffee, Monkeybicycle, DOGZPLOT, Conte, Sundog Lit, FLARE: The Flagler Review, That Lit Site, Diverse Voices Quarterly, flashquake, Spittoon, Spry, Emerge, NAP, The Next Best Book Blog, and Atticus Review, and was also adapted and performed by the Buntport Theater group in Denver, Colorado. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and works at a barbeque slop house.

Brian’s short story “Delia Done Wrong” appeared in Issue #2 of Spry.

 

Samantha: On the surface, the narrator of “Delia Done Wrong” is a complete jerk. Yet you manage to make him relatable in spite of—or maybe because of—his flaws, by showing us his vulnerability. Can you talk a little bit about striking that balance in characters of questionable morals?

Brian: I don’t see characters in black or white. People are complex. The best villains are those who have duality to their personalities, like Catwoman or the Joker or Honey Boo Boo or something. The narrator in “Delia” is definitely a jerk, but he’s human and still wants to be a good person deep down.

 

The idea of sleep runs through this story like a current. First, the narrator dreams of cheating. Then, riddled with guilt for having cheated, he is unable to sleep. At the very end, when Delia returns, he finally sleeps “for real.” This final sleep felt significant, a relief from guilt, marking his realization that he doesn’t want to see Delia’s parents, and probably doesn’t want to be with Delia. What was your intention with the sleep theme, and specifically the ending?

It could be many things. He could finally be able to sleep “for real” because he’d turned some corner in his life. The affair was therapeutic somewhat, I’d imagine. He finally got what we wanted in a way and that can be relief to people even if it doesn’t turn out how they thought it would. Something was lifted. Things were different. He was no longer haunted by that particular thing. The finality of deciding he was never going to see Delia’s parents again may have given him strength, and the thought of never having to see them again allowed him to relax some. Also, it could simply be him saying that he was now literally sleeping as opposed to just daydream sleeping.

 

I’m always curious about people’s writing processes. I often start stories and leave them unfinished. Do you have a writing ritual? Ways you stay motivated to finish a piece?

Try as I might, I can never stick to writing rituals. I’m always searching for motivation. I have to be in this weird obsessive mode where all I can think about is the story or book, which can be damaging to my normal life and to the people around me because I have to shut everything out, which causes me to lose sleep and to get sick and for the cat to not be fed. I’m cautious in going to that place, so I generally ignore it by taking Buzzfeed quizzes.

 

What’s the best writing advice you ever got?

“An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.” — Charles Bukowski

 

Which authors do you love? What are you reading now?

I pretty much love them all. They are all crazy, obsessed people. I love all the obvious “degenerate” writers like Fante and Saroyan and Carver and Larry Brown. I love S.E. Hinton so hard right now. I love pictures of Carson McCullers when she’s drunk, which is every picture of her. I dig Lazy Fascist Press; Michael J. Seidlinger and all those mad wunderkinds he publishes at Civil Coping Mechanisms, like Juliet Escoria and Robert Vaughan; Scott McClanahan’s Crapalachia; Alissa Nutting’s Tampa. I look forward to reading Mary Miller’s new novel, all the Willy Vlautin novels I haven’t read, the Paul Stanley autobiography, the books Meg Tuite just mailed me, as well as Bud Smith’s new poetry collection. Shout outs to Allie Marini Batts and to Erin Hoover and to all the talents at Spry and beyond—YOLOx10000000.

 

I read and enjoyed your collection of short stories, The Mustache He’s Always Wanted but Could Never Grow, which includes “Delia Done Wrong.” Like “Delia,” these stories are offbeat and darkly funny. They’re fun to read, too; I think I read the entire collection in one sitting. What are you working on now, what’s next?

Thank you. I’ve got a novella (“novelette”) called King Shit coming out this summer. It will be illustrated by my buddy Waylon Thornton. Another book of short stories (Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty) is slated for next year. There is also a novel/memoir thing I must will myself into completing soon… and by soon I mean whenever they stop making Buzzfeed quizzes. In the meantime, I’ll probably just publish some more stories and book reviews. Or I’ll just say, “Fuck it,” and join KISS… in my mind.

Oh, one more thing.

Here is my favorite portion from “Delia Done Wrong” that the Spry editors cut out:

Paige and I are in the shower. We take turns rubbing each other down with a washcloth. Strangely, our groin areas receive the most attention. While getting Paige’s back, I slip a finger into her asshole. She gasps, and I grin while keeping it there.

Thanks, Samantha!

 

Samantha Eliot Stier grew up in a small town in western Massachusetts that still doesn’t have cell phone reception. Her short stories have appeared in many literary journals, and will be featured in LA’s 2014 New Short Fiction Series. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and lives in Venice Beach. You can visit her here.

1 Comment

  1. YOLOx20000000000

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