CULTMACHINE interview with A. Kossak
CULTMACHINE: How did you start writing fiction?

A. Kossak: About two years after I began reading real literature it suddenly occurred to me that I could be a writer too. That must've been when I was around 16 or so. At the time I was getting deeply into Camus and Sartre and I felt their characters were my of soul mates, sitting in cafes, discussing life and philosophy and all that. So I wrote a bunch of not very good and unfinished stories about people walking out of their old lives into the existential unknown. They never arrived anywhere but that was okay. I had fun and I kind of felt important pretending to be a "writer."
CM: Which writers do you like?

AK: As a teenager I read everything I could find by Heinrich Boell. I liked Siegfried Lenz. I already mentioned Sartre and Camus. Today I am a great fan of Thomas Bernhard. I love his humor. In terms of American authors, I'm a great fan of Don DeLillo and James Ellroy. As a teen, it was all Faulkner. I got into him because the French Existentialists loved him. So I followed their trail. I read all of his books and visited "Rowan Oak" twice. Actually, that's not true. The first time I got to Oxford, on a cross-country trip, I couldn't find the place. I asked around but nobody could tell me. Imagine that! Maybe they didn't want to tell some strange young guy with a German accent. I don't know.

CM: Then you got interested in film?

AK: Very much so. It's like writing, you just use cameras. The films I liked took place in the real world with real characters. I was never much into fantasy, historical films, or sci-fi. Futuristic films maybe, but sci-fi not really. Writing for film gives you certain appreciation for structure but then it's also limiting. It took me more than ten years to unlearn the rules they hammered into me during film school. All that stuff that is supposedly "good" or "bad," the "do's" and "don'ts," the arbitrariness of it all. What they didn't understand or at least didn't teach was that writing is about putting energy on paper. The energy which flows out of the writer's imagination is what hooks readers--not everyone but hopefully some--and the writer has to follow where that energy leads and the result of that is the story. At least the first draft. But the moment you start to squeeze that raw flow into structures and conventions you zap all life out of it.
CM: How did you get started with Nobuddies?

AK: I was in Vegas and it was winter. It was very stormy and almost snowing. It's the kind of atmosphere I really like for Vegas--neon lights and dark, cold clouds. The book I was reading on that trip was Douglas Coupland's Generation X. It had been the "hot" book a few years earlier, because it dealt with the fear of nuclear war and how the young generation will never be able to achieve the financial splendor of their home-owning, golf-playing parents and grandparents. That kind of put them on the fringe of society, looking in from the outside. I could identify with those kids. The characters were all like friends I knew and the setting, Palm Springs and the desert, is very familiar to me. And I remember that I thought, 'Wow it's okay to just write about friends and places that you know. Now I have permission to do that.' It's kind of obvious, but you know even if "write about what you know" is tatooed on your brain, it's not clear until it is really clear. As we know, sometimes the shortest way is around the world. So emboldened with that little insight I started writing that night in my Vegas hotel room about Vegas in the winter and these characters out there near the "Valley of Fire" where I had been hiking that morning.
CM: Nobuddies started as a short story?

AK: Yes, it started with a chapter called Bigsby. It's about this New York investment genius who has his parents emotionally stolen by his lovable but almost retarded childhood buddy. Bigsby spills it all to this young hippie kid named Zoot. And as I was writing the energy wanted to go into a more and more sinister direction and that's where I let it take me. Soon more characters just begged to get involved and suddenly there were three connected short stories. On the morning of my wedding day, no less, I suddenly had this idea of a fourth story which would wrap around the orginal stories and connect all the spokes. For obvious reasons I couldn't write everything down that very day but I did soon afterwards, at least all I could still remember from that flash of insight.
CM: Who is your audience?

AK: When I write it's me and later always my friends. Will they like that twist? Will they think it's cool? Can I surprise them? I want to see that smile when they read it. So, a few close friends--that's how far I look in terms reactions and critique. That's my primary audience. I mean, 'impressing their friends' was the prime motivation for all those tinkerers in the garages of Silicon Valley. That's who they invented personal computers for. What came later, wasn't really on their minds during the creative phase. It's a great motivation: simple and pure. So, judging from my friends, those who might like Nobuddies are people with a dark sense of humor and a taste for unusual characters. If you dig that, Nobuddies should be a fun read.
CM: Why get it out there as an e-book?

AK: If the publishing industry--and that's what gets involved the moment you cut a tree to print the book--resembles the film industry--which I know a few things about--then it's almost a writer's duty to choose the path which keeps the influence of such an industry on her, or his work to a minimum. All those middle people, agents, editors, book dealers, printers, cover designers, store owners want to get paid well for being between the writer and the reader, not only jacking up the price of the book thus keeping it from being read, but intentionally or inadvertendly messing with what you write. It sounds blunt, but that's the bottom line. Sure, some may greatly contribute and some editors are legendary but those are few and far between. I just don't want to have to argue over story with some non-writers, with some recent college graduate who wants to apply all she or he has learned from their textbooks over four years and at a great price. So with all due respect, I prefer to opt out of that system and go straight for the ebook. It's like getting your "directors cut." And I like that.

CM: Thanks for the interview.