ED. NOTE: Long-time Points readers may remember our Fiction Points series from its first appearance way back in 2013. Fiction Points consists of interviews with contemporary authors whose writing often features drugs and/or alcohol. Having discovered new authors in the last two years, Fiction Points curator Amy Long wanted to bring back the series. Read more about the aims and historical significance of our Fiction Points series in Long and Managing Editor Emeritus Eoin Cannon’s introductory post to the first Fiction Points.
We begin the series with Stephen Elliott. Stay tuned for interviews with David Dellecese, Brian Alan Ellis, Juliet Escoria, Maria Flook, Leslie Jamison, and Kevin Maloney. New Fiction Points posts will appear every Tuesday for the next six weeks.
Stephen Elliott, founder of the online literary magazine The Rumpus and currently Senior Editor for Epic Magazine, is the author of seven books: the novels Happy Baby (2004), What it Means to Love You (2002), A Life Without Consequences (2001), and Jones Inn (1998); the erotic short-story collection My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up (2006); and the nonfiction works Looking Forward to It: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About It and Love the American Electoral Process (2004), based on his time on the 2004 campaign trail, and The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder (2009). He edited the collections Sex for America: Politically Inspired Erotica (2003) and, with Greg Larson, Stumbling and Raging: More Politically Inspired Fiction (2005). A film adaptation of The Adderall Diaries premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015. Elliott has directed two movies himself: About Cherry (2012) and an adaptation of Happy Baby, expected to release this year. His work has appeared in publications such as Esquire, The New York Times, The Believer, GQ, Best American Erotica, Best American Sex Writing, and the Best American Non-Required Reading anthologies for 2005 and 2007. Elliott holds a Master’s degree in film production from Northwestern University and was a 2001 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, during which time he also served as Stanford’s Marsh McCall Lecturer in Creative Writing. He lives in Brooklyn.
Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?
This question doesn’t make any sense. Why would I tell them I’m a writer? Why would they approach me at a bar? I tell them I don’t talk to penguins. I haven’t spoken with penguins in a long time and I intend to keep it that way. I say I write about “stuff”. Or, more likely, I try to find out what they do, who taught them to talk. Are they real penguins or just butlers who look like penguins. I’m the least interesting person there; I would try to keep the conversation about them and their history and concerns.
Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?
Maybe, since they’re historians, they would find depictions of drug use among the inner-city poor in the 1980s interesting. There’s a lot of that in my work.
What led you to write about drugs and alcohol in the first place?
I write about my life mostly and drugs played an important part in my life at one point.
How would you describe the way that drugs function in your work, whether in terms of thematic concerns or the choices you make about how to craft a story? Do you think there are things that you wouldn’t be able to explore as successfully if drugs weren’t in your writing arsenal?
I don’t think so. I’m more of an intuitive writer. I write based on inspiration, generally. In other words, I don’t outline. I don’t think about thematic concerns. I guess I don’t really know that anything I write is based on choice.
What do you personally find most interesting about how drugs work in your writing, and where do you see that interest leading you in future projects?
I hope, when I’m writing about drugs, or anything else, that there is some realism. Some sliver of truth.
BONUS QUESTION: Let’s hope that one of your novels, short stories, or other works gets made into a major motion picture. If you have your choice, which is it, and what song do you fantasize about hearing as the credits roll?
Currently I’m listening to a lot of Noveller, so that would nice to hear as the credits roll. I don’t have a preference for any of my books being made into a movie. I’d prefer the movie be good but in an adaptation the book is just a starting point. The director becomes the author. I wish them luck.