Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I don’t think there’s anything I hate more than talking about myself, so I’ll try to make this as painless as I possibly can. I’m Luke Ganje and I’ve been writing seriously for over a decade, not just because I love to do it but also because a writer is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be. It wouldn’t be any great exaggeration or burst of dramatic flair to say that I have no interest in a life that doesn’t include telling stories. It is, in a sense, everything I am. As such, I’ve written five novels (seven if you count the two I’m not proud of), somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy short stories, and hundreds of poems, and they range in tone and genre from absurdist humor to horror to contemplative fiction. Someone asked me once what I want out of this, what the goal of my artistic pursuit was, and to be honest the answer was simple enough: In time this life will end and in the blink of an eye who we’ve been and what we’ve done will be lost to an inevitable decay. I write because, while I’m here, I want to experience this life just a little bit more and feel and understand things I might have otherwise missed.
How do you make time to write?
For me, it’s all about routine and dedication. I set aside two hours a night to work and no matter how trivial the project of the day, I fill that time. I no longer work a day job on Fridays, having set aside that day for a sort of mini marathon in which I can make significant headway in whatever novel happens to be my primary focus, and that’s been a joy to experience. In those moments I almost feel like the full-time writer I aspire to be, whether it’s a self-constructed illusion or not. The time to write, to pursue what you love, is always there. Sacrifices simply need to be made or else that pursuit and the work that stems from it will only ever wind up being hollow, empty, and dead.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you?
My process in this regard has changed over the years. When I first started, I spent a great deal of time wandering down the unmarked roads of exploratory writing but as the years go by and my attention span and memory continue to falter and fade, I find myself having to outline a little more each time. These days I tend to write all my dialogue in a notebook, filling pages as if I’m script-writing, and then rewrite the entire thing as a finished and detailed experience on my laptop. It works well enough and tends to give my dialogue a lived-in edge that I prefer, so I’ll continue down that path until I have to tinker with my process again for the sake of clarity and not driving myself completely insane.
What are you working on at the minute?
Frustratingly enough, I’m torn between two projects that both demand my full attention and yet I haven’t quite decided which one to focus on. I don’t mean to treat trivially the perils of wartime, but I’m almost positive this is precisely how Meryl Streep felt in Sophie’s Choice. As it stands, I’m splitting my time between my first ever horror novel and a more quiet and contemplative piece of magical realism. The former will be bitter, vicious, and unforgiving. The latter is a character piece about a young man whose life begins to fall apart because he continually sees one small thing no one else can, and believes without a shadow of a doubt that it is real. Both deal with family, loss, and our uncomfortable relationship with mortality, but neither is the clear front-runner and so I’m a bit adrift at the moment. I keep trying to reach out to Mrs. Streep for advice, but sadly she won’t return my calls.
I’m almost afraid to ask, where do your ideas come from?
I suppose it would be abhorrently trite to simply tap the side of my head, doubly so seeing as how this isn’t that kind of visual medium. Nevertheless, this is something that I think about a lot. Sometimes you write things that push you to places you don’t want to go and yet you have to for the sake of the story, so in that sense a French term comes to mind: l’appel du vide. The Call of the Void.Known also as “High Place Phenomenon”, it’s the little trigger in your mind that kicks in when you’re standing on a ledge and tells you to jump, or while you’re driving down the highway and you suddenly have the urge to whip the steering wheel into oncoming traffic. It’s an ordinary part of the human experience and something I’ve felt in waves my entire life, heightened as it is by anxiety (of which I have plenty), so it weaves almost constantly in and out of the stories I tell. Complicating things is the manner in which I tend to process even the most mundane aspects of everyday life, where everything shows as infinite spirals in which I find myself reliving conversations dozens of times right after they happen, following them down rabbit holes until I find myself having visceral emotional reactions to things that never happened and words that were never said. That’s probably where my stories travel from, I suppose. Out of the void and along an incessantly spiraling road.
Do you ever get Writer’s Block?
Put simply, no. I view writing not just as my passion but also as work, as a job, and the funny thing about work is that responsibilities don’t just magically go away if you’re not feeling it. So I’ve had bad days where the words don’t flow quite like they should and there are definitely days where I haven’t managed to write much of anything at all, but it’s never been a lingering thing in the form of that towering “Writer’s Block” wall. Doing what you love is hard work and I’ve never once found that it gets any easier by avoiding thought obstacles that inevitably pop up along the way.
It looks like you independently published “It Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time”. What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
Put simply, I have a hate-hate relationship with self-publishing. It’s not something I ever really saw myself doing as I tend to see life as overcoming obstacles and there’s little about the process that I see as anything more than an end-run around the publishing world’s absurd hurdles. It’s like running a marathon and then taking a taxi from mile three to mile twenty-five, expecting the same accolades when you cross the finish line as those who’ve traveled the road of the established process. So that’s my annoyed sense of the disadvantage. There’s a stigma around the whole affair and, while there will always be exceptions, the framework of stigmas exists for a reason. Then again, there’s a fairly sizable advantage as well and one that made me put all my annoyance and irritation into my anthology that was released in August: It takes away the chance of you dying before any of your creations are unleashed on the world, and that was always an odd little fear of mine. So it’s not how I saw things going and to be honest I’m unsure whether or not I’ll self-publish anything again; there might be another anthology but my novels are reserved for the traditional road I will always pursue. That being said, it was a nice experience and for the most part it was undertaken so that all the people who’ve supported me over the years could have a memento of my time here sitting comfortably on their bookshelves. In a way, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I have two actually, which would make me the world’s worst version of Superman. It’s basically a two horse race in which both the horses have to be euthanized because they’re rabid and ate a jockey. But I digress. The first is that I will always possess a crippling self-doubt when it comes to my work, to such an extent that (with one exception) I’ve never finished anything without feeling like it’s the worst thing ever committed to printed page by a functioning adult. That may sound like an exaggeration but it’s not. As much as I’m driven by the love of the written word, I’m just as driven by the creeping sense that I’ll never write anything of note and anyone who’s said differently has been lying for the sake of some strange social etiquette I don’t understand. As you can imagine, this makes me a joy at parties. The second piece of Kryptonite is at least functionally more problematic and can be found in the slow but inevitable decline of my memory. It’s frightfully true that, no matter what I write on a given day, I will not remember what it was by the time I sit down again twenty-four hours later. Characters, plots, names, descriptions…they vanish as soon as I close my eyes, and so every day when I sit down at my desk, my process begins with an hour spent re-reading all that I wrote the previous night and hoping I still know where I’m going. It’s scary, in a way. What a terrifying thing to forget the friends I’ve made.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
My work is most prominently displayed on my website www.keywordnovelist.com and that’s where you can find a lot of my short stories and poetry. There’s also a blog, because blogs go with writers about as reliably as pumpkin spice lattes flock to their own comically specific demographic. There’s some good stuff on there and, if all you know of me is the absurdist comedy found in my anthology release, it’ll be sure to raise some eyebrows. I can also be found on Twitter and Instagram under that very same moniker: Keywordnovelist.
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
Certainly. This snippet is taken from the story that leads off my catastrophically absurd debut, “It Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time.” Author’s Note: It only gets weirder from here.
“Hello? Hello? How’s the reception up there?”
Artemartedoxtorix, called Art by his friends, squinted at the blood in the sand as it rolled like the weeping tides of humanity and also heavy cream. It danced with static before it eventually flared to life when the sound of screaming filtered through. Art looked around but no one was really paying attention. He covered his blood screen anyway because he wasn’t the type to make a scene if he could help it. Some jobs you just don’t want to draw attention to yourself while performing and his hallowed position of receptionist was one of those jobs.
“Art? Is this Art? I was told to call Art,” screamed the voice from the other end of the line.
“What? Well yeah of course it’s me. Is this…” he looked at his sheet of paper. “I’m sorry, I can’t pronounce your name.”
Art stared blankly at the dancing blood. “I’m sorry, that doesn’t help,” he said. “What does that rhyme with?”
“I don’t know…Cave?”
“What about Potato?” asked Art. “I know that one.”
“My name doesn’t rhyme with Potato, Art,”
“Ah…” said Art. “Well can I just call you Potato? It’d make this a lot easier.”
For a long moment there was silence on the other end of the line.
“Can I talk to someone else?”
“I’m afraid not. Everyone else is out on assignment,” said Art. “What’s the problem?”
“Well, I put the kid in the burlap sack but he doesn’t seem to be drowning and now the whole thing is wet,” said Dave, also known as Potato.
“Do you have the blood already?” asked Art.
“The what?” he asked.
“The blood. You know you can’t kill him until you have his blood, right?”
“Oh yeah. For sure. Totally,” said Dave. “I was just about to do that.”
“While he’s underwater and suffocating in a sack?”
“Yep. I’m thrifty,” said Dave.
Art looked around the receptionist center and threw a rock at a winged adder. This wasn’t his fault. The project had been passed on to him by someone with a better castle in the aftermath of one of Potato’s many mistakes, at which point his superior decided that temptation and possessions were more his bag. He’d said Art was on track for a promotion if he succeeded, so the receptionist who’d always seen himself as more of a hero type leapt at the opportunity. It was only a matter of time until greatness was his.
“Look, Potato,” said Art. “We’re in this together so all I need to know is one thing.”
There was silence on the other line. “What?” asked the human.
Art rubbed his temples and winced when he pricked himself on a horn.
“Can you find a rock?” he asked. “I just threw a rock at a flying adder and that seemed to work.”
“What’s an adder?”
“A snake,” said Art, and for a moment Potato was silent.
“Wait. There are snakes down there?” he asked finally. “If there are snakes down there I don’t think I can do this.”
Art looked up at the swarms of flying adders that soared through lakes and clouds of fire.
“Are there what?” he asked, a master of changing topics.
“Snakes. Are there snakes in hell?”
If a demon could look awkward, Artemartedoxtorix, Demon of the Fourth Degree, definitely looked awkward.
“What? Oh yeah no, definitely not,” he said. “You misheard me.”
“Well what did you say then?
Art looked around for anything his mind could seize on.
“Pits of endless despair,” he said finally when his eyes fell on the pool of weeping where acid carved canyons in the faces of the suffering.